Keep Your Cool—Test Anxiety

Chalk Talk #39

Test anxiety is a major point killer on standardized tests. Recent research indicates the root cause of test anxiety is not what we thought.

Imagine this: You spent a whole class period learning about the scientific method. When the bell rings, you are confident that you have a good understanding, so you don’t feel the need to study any more on the topic. Months later, you see it on the test—apparently you don’t know it as well as you thought. Panic sets in. You chew your pencil, bite your nails, and hope that something will help jog your memory, but nothing comes. You realize you’ve now wasted valuable time and continue to panic even more.

Since so much rides on the ACT and SAT, students who do not typically suffer from test anxiety may experience it when they take the standardized test. The answer to alleviating test anxiety and seeing more students score college ready is to change how students study, with a focus on improving their retrieval strength.

As you can see in the scenario above, simple familiarity with a topic doesn’t mean easy retrieval on test day. That is why study that includes retrieval practice is much more effective for long-term retention.

Check out this video to learn more:


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5 Ways to Improve Retrieval Strength:  

  • Encourage the use of flash cards.
  • Give frequent quizzes over spaced intervals.
  • Use various testing formats.
  • Encourage interleaving studying (studying multiple topics in one session).
  • Use the last few minutes of class to do a recall session where students articulate or write about what they learned.

If you would like to learn more about retrieval strength and recent research on the topic, click here.

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