How to beat test anxiety this finals week

Stacy Allen | Contributing Writer

‘Twas the night before finals, when all throughout campus, not a student was hustling, not even the squirrels. When the sun rises in a mere 12 hours, all students will file into their classrooms and spend the next few hours reenacting what seems to be a scene from “The Hunger Games.”

Making matters worse, final exam possibilities are endless and can range from multiple-choice to open-ended essay prompts. How could a student calmly conquer this once, much less five or six times?

The truth is, most students do not enter these situations calmly and their performance reflects this. In a 2020 study published by the National Library of Medicine, test anxiety affects 20% of every campus population. 

Many students are unaware they suffer from this common performance anxiety and that there are on-campus resources to aid in combating this struggle. The University of Dayton Brooks Center and Office of Learning Resources have staff equipped to provide students with support options to prevent and overcome this scholastic terminator. 

As defined by the Learning Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, test anxiety is a combination of physical symptoms and emotional reactions that interfere with your ability to perform well on tests. Some symptoms include headache, excessive sweating and rapid heartbeat. 

Test anxiety is a broad and ill-defined term because multiple students can present symptoms differently when placed in the same environment and situation. This is a complex issue, but there are solutions. The first step in paving the bumpy road is breaking down what anxiety looks like for each student. 

For example, is a student anxious because they procrastinated and did not have adequate study time to prepare for an upcoming exam? Are they triggered by the feeling they did not study “good enough?” Assistant Director of Mental Health Education Lindsey Young speaks on the role of the Co-Pilot program as a prevention avenue for avoiding test anxiety. These peer educators are trained to do one-on-one conversations with students and can mentor peers in goal-setting or meditation tactics for managing stress. 

Scheduling a co-pilot meeting is simple, according to Young; its Google calendar is linked to the Co-Pilots information page on the university’s website. Just select a date and time that works for you, and it’s a date. Young also is available to speak with students individually who may not be comfortable speaking with one of its peers. 

In conjunction, University of Dayton Assistant Director of Access and Disability Services Deanna Arbuckle is an access coordinator within the Office of Learning Resources who can help students navigate their response to test anxiety in an active-testing situation.

Arbuckle explained that students can be referred to the Office of Learning Resources by their academic coach after they have tried managing their anxiety through time-management strategies or proper studying techniques. Each student is recommended to work with an academic coach first. These appointments can be scheduled independently through the Student Success Network. 

When seeing an academic coach is unsuccessful or when anxiety begins creating a barrier to being able to address testing, the next step Arbuckle said is speaking with an access coordinator to see if there are options available for academic accommodations. Those accommodations are dependent on the student’s specific circumstances.

“Some students find that that anxiety heightens as other people are finishing and leaving the testing room,” Arbuckle said. “So, it may be as simple as taking the test outside the classroom, so they are not having those constant reminders of ‘that person is done and I’m not.’”

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts due to the pressure of finals week, you are not alone. The University of Dayton Counseling Center is available and equipped to handle these crises. Please visit The Counseling Center for more information.

Finals are an unavoidable aspect of the college experience. This milestone can be daunting and anxiety-inducing. However, these exams are battles that can be won. With the resource provided by the university, students can add tools to their arsenal of success and leave the classroom feeling like a winner. 

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