Testing anxiety shows itself in different ways for different students. It can range from refusing to do work, crying, hiding in the bathroom, and verbal aggression to physical behavior like flipping tables and desks or hitting school staff. Some students avoid school on test days, and many suffer from symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches.
In special education programs, many of our students’ disabilities are closely related to anxiety, and testing can be a trigger that heightens those negative thoughts and feelings.
It’s a common belief that testing anxiety affects only older students, such as those taking high school or college placement exams. However, testing anxiety affects students of all ages. In fact, studies have shown that test anxiety is actually the worst in the middle grades. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, this anxiety can stem from a fear of failure, negative testing experiences, or feeling unprepared.
Anxiety does not “look” the same for all students, so you have to know when to push students and when to empathize, when to listen, and when to set limits. It is important to reiterate that the entire point of assessment is not to measure who you are by a single score on a single day for a particular area in school, but rather it is to be used as an instrument to gauge progress and direct instruction for more optimal learning.