Workshop to soothe students’ test anxiety

Spinnaker

“If I don’t pass this test, I’m going to fail college and life.”

That’s the type of message the voice in your head gives you that can cause test anxiety, said Deborah Baker, mental health counselor at the UNF counseling center.

But anxiety can be good – not just stressful – because it creates drive to achieve, she said.

“Without anxiety, you would be a couch potato,” Baker said.

And Baker said students should listen to that voice in your head – even talk back – because it’s what will keep you in check. It’s the same voice that decides if you are going to the local watering hole to drink away the anxiety or if you will face reality and prepare for testing.

In an Academic Center for Excellence test anxiety management workshop Feb. 15, Baker spoke to a few students about the realities of test taking and how prevention and maintenance of anxiety are keys to being
successful.

Chelsea Hayman, a freshman exercise science major, said she gets nervous and forgets things before the test – common traits of test anxiety.

“I always did well on homework, but not so hot on tests, especially timed tests,” Hayman said. The workshop was her first.

Along with balanced sleep, nutrition and exercise, Baker teaches the calming response to get down from the adrenaline mode that comes with test anxiety: Breath deep, hold it in for three seconds and exhale very slowly, as if through a cocktail straw. Repeat two more times.

Baker said it’s a useful exercise in any stressful situation because the brain uses more oxygen and sugar than any other part of the body.

Andrea Denning, a 29-year-old graduate from Penn State University, said she felt like taking a nap after the exercise. Denning, who is currently pursuing an accounting degree at UNF, said she does well on short answer tests but still struggles with multiple choice exams and suffers from test anxiety to this day.

Baker said the life of a student can be very stressful, and even more so for non-traditional students.

“UNF has a lot of non-traditional students,” she said. “They find themselves in the same problems, and they don’t grow out of it.”

For now, Denning hopes the workshop helps and will practice some newly learned techniques.

E-mail Jonathan Morales at [email protected]