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The Test and The Stress

June 27, 2019
Plain English Version

Taking a test.

What does a test in school measure? Does it measure your knowledge of the subject matter? Does it measure the effort you put into preparing for the test? Does is measure how well you cope with the stress of taking the test? Does is measure how well the teacher prepared you for the test?

Of course, the answer is all the above.

Some experts say tests have become too important. The federal government evaluates schools on the results of tests. The No Child Left Behind program put the spotlight on teachers. If the kids did not do well it was bad for the teacher and the school.

After blaming the teachers and the schools, it became blame the test. For example, a test to get into high-achieving high schools in New York City created trouble. Few black and Hispanic kids passed the test. Asian kids did the best and white kids second best.

The outcry was to change test so more black and Hispanic youngsters got in. Asian and white parents protested. So far, the test is still in place.

Others focus on helping students view testing in a more upbeat light. First, interrupt the way students feel about tests. Anxiety about a test comes from knowing a test evaluates you. Experts say it is best to fit tests into your normal life. Sleep and good nutrition prepare the brain for tests.

One expert talked about breathing techniques. It is an easy way to reduce stress. She said, “Notice where you feel it in your body. Imagine you are gathering that up when you inhale, and then part your lips and blow it away. You have to breathe anyway; you might as well do it deeply.”

Think about the way test results are used. An expert said, “They are just a snapshot, ideally used to inform.”

And then, the talk about anxiety. Worrying too much is likely to make tests more difficult. An expert said, “Try to understand that anxiety is your body trying to help you.” The goal is managing stress and not simply reducing it.

What if you do not test well? It may keep you from achieving a goal. Or it may not matter. Getting a degree may be the most important thing. Doing what you do well may be the bigger test.

In general, people are evaluating us during most of our lives. We are used to it. We are here because our ancestors were successful in dealing with the stress of their lives.

Source: The New York Times June 24, 2019


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