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Responding to Students With Exam Anxiety

Some anxiety often helps a student perform better under pressure. However, if students experience too much anxiety, it can affect both academic and psychological well-being.

Test anxiety can be caused by many factors, such as the pressure to succeed, past experiences, and/or fear of failure.

Symptoms of test anxiety can include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweaty palms
  • Negative self-talk
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Tears
  • Inability to retain test information

The student with anxiety may not perform well on tests, although grades on other course requirements are good.

A student can have anxiety related to certain types of exams. For example, there may be a great discrepancy between a student’s grades in multiple-choice and essay exams in the same course.

  • See the student privately.
  • Ask about the student’s exam preparation and time management skills. Suggest useful study strategies and exam preparation techniques.
  • Go over the exam with the student so that the student understands his/her performance and what caused the errors.
  • Refer students to the Accessibility and Disability Service of the Counseling Center (301) 314-7682, if needed.
  • Refer the student to the Counseling Center (301) 314-7651, for stress management and/or psychological counseling, if needed.
  • Encourage the student to form a study group for the course to provide academic and psychological support.
  • Recommend tutoring if the student does not understand the course material. Tutoring referrals may include Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Education (OMSE) (301) 405-5616, the Math Department Tutoring Center (Rm. 0301, Math Building), the Math Success ProgramTutoring @ UMD and teaching assistants.
  • Minimizing the situation.
  • Assuming the student is simply trying to ask for special attention.
  • Thinking the student should be able to handle the problem without support.
  • Concluding that the student must have a learning disability.
  • Believing that if the student really understands the material, the student should be able to perform better on exams.
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