If you think about how much time your teen actually spends physically taking tests, they have a disproportionately large role in their psyches. How he or she performs during a few short hours, while hunched over a small desk in some strange building, can have major consequences. As a high school student, their score on the SAT or ACT helps determine which school he or she attends. Which school he or she goes to has a lot to do with which job he or she will get. It’s therefore no surprise that anxiety sets in when these tests loom large in their mind as a decider of their fate. You’ll be glad to know there are techniques out there to help alleviate such anxiety.
First, here are some facts. We all know test anxiety can be detrimental, not only to the student’s health, but also to their performance. The hard-science research indicates a student’s score can be compromised anywhere from 12 to 35 percent as a result of test anxiety. This means the difference between a disappointing score and a solid, high score.
While techniques usually relegated to yoga studios and therapists’ offices may seem unrelated, combining these with your traditional test prep action plan can help those who suffer from test anxiety. Students will perform better on test day, increase their standardized test scores, and these techniques will help manage and decrease ordinary stress.
There are many approaches to help your teen reach a state of calm control. The following is one of many, and is based on Heart Math’s ‘The Quick Coherence Technique‘. It is an easy, but powerful technique to help bring students back to center, feel more relaxed and in control, and even empowered to remember a time when they were focused. These methods can then be applied when focusing on testing situations, and you can do it yourself to help gain center. Go through each of the following steps with your test-taker, modeling the behavior, and speaking through each one of them.
Step 1: Heart Focus. Focus your attention on the area around your heart, the area in the center of your chest. If you prefer, the first couple of times you try it, place your hand over the center of your chest and your other hand on the belly for grounding and a kind of heart-body connection, and to help focus attention in the heart area.
Step 2: Heart Breathing. Breathe deeply but normally. You may feel as if your breath is coming in and going out through your heart area. Imagine it is. As you inhale, feel as if your breath is flowing in through the heart, and as you exhale, feel it leaving through this area. Breathe slowly and casually, a little deeper than normal. Continue breathing with ease until you find a natural inner rhythm that feels good to you. You may feel a shift here.
Step 3: Heart Feeling. As you maintain your heart focus and heart breathing, activate a positive feeling. Recall a positive feeling, a time when you felt good inside, and take a moment to re-experience the feeling. One of the easiest ways to generate a positive, heart-based feeling is to remember a special place you’ve been to or the love you feel for a close friend or family member or treasured pet. It can be anything. This is the most important step.
Repeat as needed.
This is just one of many solutions you can recommend to your child or student to use to get into the best mindset. While the test is standardized, everyone is unique, and finding a way for each student to combat anxiety will be too. Once you isolate the ‘symptoms’ of anxiety your child/student has, you can find a solution. You can encourage them to speak to a counselor, teachers, or the school psychologist to come up with additional solutions. You can also contact us for personalized SAT and ACT stress management solutions.
Bara Sapir, MA, CHT is an internationally recognized expert in high-performance coaching and test preparation. She is a pioneer in bringing holistic techniques to the test preparation field and is Founder and Executive Director of Test Prep New York and Test Prep San Francisco. Looking for more tips? Visit her website to access the Full Potential Audio sampler, which can help to relax and focus teens for the SAT or ACT.
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