Lesson 5 - Learner Assessment Illinois State Library

Test Anxiety and Other Assessment Issues

Page 3 of 5

After working through the previous section, you should understand the variety of tests possible to measure the adult learner's progress, as well as the purpose of pre-and post-testing. Now, we will discuss other issues about assessment.

Test Anxiety

Test anxiety is worry or fear that a learner feels before, during, or after an examination. People with test anxiety become so anxious about failing that their bodies begin to show physical and emotional symptoms that increase the likelihood of failure. Such an adult learner may suffer from headaches, nausea, or irritability, all of which interfere with concentration. In addition, the learner may also have increased vision and hearing sensitivity, muscle tension, and may criticize him or herself.

Since testing happens early in the tutoring process, a learner with test anxiety must be helped to understand that assessments are used in a positive way. For example, tutors use assessments to plan and develop curriculum to meet the learning goals of the adult learner. This curriculum is what will help the learner progress. Testing not only measures educational gains but also guides what needs to be taught or reviewed. The adult learner who is aware of this process will be better able to handle testing. Inform the learner what the test measures, and that the purpose is to find out what they need to learn, as well as to measure progress. Allow the learner to complete a practice exam, if possible.

After the initial pre-test, help the adult learner cope with test anxiety by introducing him or her to methods that can help reduce anxiety to a manageable level. For instance, assure the learner that, in the tutoring program, there is no failure. Tutors praise improvement whenever it happens. For example, a learner who begins reading at a second grade level, but through tutoring, increases to a third grade level, is a success whenever this improvement occurs. Tutors may reward learning activities such as test completion as they take place rather than saving rewards for final achievement of goals. Tutors may also encourage the learner with test anxiety to write down his/her negative thoughts. Together they can counter each one with a positive statement. The learner should then try to repeat these statements silently during tests in an effort to "reprogram" his or her mind for success. Above all else, tutors must refrain from comparing learners. Each adult learner is an individual with his or her own strengths and weaknesses.

It is important to understand that overcoming text anxiety is not easy. In order to help the adult learner overcome these fears, you need to take time in the tutoring session to incorporate these strategies. Relaxed Test Taking is one strategy a tutor might find useful with an adult learner.

The information on test anxiety and relaxation techniques was developed by St. Charles Community College. Permission to use this information was granted October 15, 2008.

Four steps to Relaxed Test Taking are provided in the table below:

Steps to Relaxed Test Taking

Step 1
Positive Thinking
Have your students write down their worries and then provide them with positive responses and feedback. This step can be done orally.This helps your student to rephrase their concerns with positive thinking.

Step 2
Controlled Breathing
When you exhale, your tense muscles relax. At the beginning of the tutoring session, have the student close their eyes and slowly take and release 10 deep breaths.

Step 3
Dealing with the Fear Response
Have your student imagine they are in the test-taking situation and have them practice steps one and two.

Step 4
Muscle Relaxing

  1. Bend your head and try to rest your right ear as close as you can to your right shoulder. Take a deep breath and count to five. Assume normal position, relax and exhale.
  2. Repeat the same procedure but bend your head to the left shoulder.
  3. Repeat again but now try to touch your chest with your chin.
  4. Next, make a fist and tense your left forearm. Take a deep breath and count to ten. Release your fingers and relax and exhale.
  5. Now, do the same with your right arm.
  6. Continue moving from the head to the arms, your trunk and then your legs. You will begin feeling yourself relax and because you have been focusing on this exercise, you will forget about your anxiety.