Test-taking fear can be overcome with correct steps

February 24, 2012 Commentary Print Print

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” James Joyce (1882-1941)

Part of what helps us grow and become the most that we can be is the ability to make choices and take risks, even though some of those choices may turn out to be mistakes.

Fear can be an important emotion in that it keeps us safe, but too much fear, especially in situations where the outcome will not be fatal, shuts us down and stunts our growth.

In the classroom, this fear of making a mistake often forces us to take the path of least resistance. We might sit in class wishing that we could ask a question or challenge assumptions and let our thinking soar to new heights, but we don’t. We can’t. We’re afraid of being wrong. We’re afraid of making a mistake.

The same is true when it coming to taking tests. Even though life itself is a test, and every day we call upon all that we know and all that we are in order to competently make it through our daily tasks, the idea of “taking a test” for academic purposes unnerves some people.

A test is simply an opportunity to demonstrate what you know and can do at a given time. While tests can be important, their outcomes are not so much that we should shut down at the prospect of taking one.

Test-taking is a skill, and as with all skills, can be improved upon. Going to class, doing homework, actively participating, and practicing answering test questions are all activities that can help improve test performance. Another activity that is often neglected is to review the items that were missed and figure out why they were missed. Not having a clue about the information indicates that there may be a study and/or time management issue that must be addressed.

Knowing the answer, but not allowing one’s self to choose it indicates a test-taking or confidence issue. All of these can be corrected, but only if you are aware and take steps to do something about them.

We all make mistakes. The trick is to make them work for you. If you need help learning how, come down the back hallway and visit with one of us in Student Support Services.

—Mary Turner

Learning Support Specialist

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