1. Tell me about your experiences with first-year math students?

Following a series of consecutive meetings with the math first year students, I noticed with great concern, a continued disconnect between most of the students and their studies. Most of them are in their early adulthood a period that is understood to be laden with a plethora of difficulties in when it comes to tests and assessments. However, they cannot be faulted for this occurrence, and neither can they be christened as bad students. My experience with the students made me understand that there is need for crucial knowledge to understand how to deal with the issue of test anxiety disorder. By so doing, this knowledge will facilitate better academic performances among the scholarship students and will, in turn, help in teach them how to deal with test anxieties.

Throughout my experience with the first year students, I realized that most of them are scholarship students who are finding their way to succeed in school. As they emerge into adulthood the students are prompted into decision making about their life. One of their main decisions is they can excel in their academics. The constant fear of not performing well in exams has tremendously affected students’ performance. At their stage college students may start to realize who they truly are and what they expect out of their school, work and relationship life. Most of them want to score well in their exams and put all their efforts in attaining their goals. From a personal encounter with each of my students, I also found out that most of them gain optimism by believing that they have the chance to live better lives, take responsibility for themselves and decide what to do by looking to establish good careers for themselves.

  1. Tell me about your experiences with your math students that have experienced test anxiety?

Many students experience anxiety or stress before an exam. In fact, a little nervousness helps them perform well. However, this distress has interfered with their performances especially when it becomes so excessive. Test anxiety disorder entails uproars in the students’ emotions, thinking, and behaviors. Little uproars in these areas of life are common, but when the disruptions greatly torment a student or interact with the normal operations it is regarded as a disorder. Test anxiety may have temporary or long-term effects. The test disorder is as a result of complicated relations between cultural, social, physical, psychological and hereditary influences.

About 50 percent of students encounter test anxieties at a certain point in their lives. More than half of the affected students experience moderate to severe symptoms. Test anxiety is among the leading causes of school dropouts, stress, suicide and depression as the lead cause of poor performance in school. Even with the high occurrence of test anxiety disorder, only 20 percent of the affected students get access to professional help.

Even though incredible developments have been made in the knowledge and treatment of test, the stigma that comes along with test anxiety is still rampant. For example, some of the emotional symptoms possessed by students with test anxiety include laziness or carelessness, self doubt, hopelessness, anger, inadequacy and restlessness. The physical symptoms include nausea, excessive sweating, headaches, stomach pains, shortness in breath and rapid heartbeats. The disorder may be viewed as less real or illegitimate than the physical illness, which makes the parents and teachers reluctant to take any action towards the affected students. However, the growing understanding of the adverse effects of text anxiety on healthcare cost and poor academic performance is changing the trend.

In my recent observations, test anxiety results of a complicated relationship between genetic and environmental conditions. Study has shown that in most cases of test disorders hereditary plays a role. Usually, a test disorder happens when students or older adults whose genetic make-up exposes them to anxiety, go through a lot of the stress in their family or social life or in their academic life. Also, a number of experts believe that failure of the chemicals in the brain to function may also facilitate the development of test anxiety.  Brain imaging procedures, like the magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography, indicate changes in the brain of those affected by test disorder. This, therefore, is a clear indication of that test anxiety comprises of a biological component, just like other disorders that are regarded neurologic. Nevertheless, whether the variations identified on the imaging tests are the cause or the outcome of the disorder is not clear.

When thinking about test anxiety, it is important to differentiate between chronic and mental anxiety disorders that seriously limits a student’s daily operations or ability to do things. This changes from a short but severe episode of signs that will eventually resolve and from long-lasting symptoms that do not affect normal operations of an individual. To that extent, if the symptoms are not noticed early, they may persist and lead to serious effects like committing suicide. I recently encountered a situation of a student who took Xanax to try to kill herself. The student’s mother called informing me that my student was in the hospital as a result of overdose. The student took a Xanax overdose because of test anxiety and being homesick. The transition from a settled home life to university, a place where every student is pressured to succeeding may have been the main cause of the student attempting to commit suicide. Since the student had a single mother, it is also likely that she was facing the impact of financial difficulties and changes in the circle of friend.


  1. What specific areas of intervention would you like to see your university improve upon to address test anxiety schoolwide? Please give suggestions or examples.

Although there have been many cases of test anxiety among students, the University has been failing to provide proper help to students in introductory math classes who suffer from test anxiety. The prevalence of test anxiety in school also means that the teachers and entire school fraternity is failing and does not understand what the students are struggling with. Importantly the school staff is well positioned to identify and respond to the students’ needs as well as offer them support. Many cases of test anxiety among students have been reported but the school is not taking any action to deal with the problem.

There are three specific areas that the university should improve upon and support students in managing their anxiety problems before exams. The school can make an improvement on teaching students specific revision techniques to increase their sense of competence and agency. Some teaching techniques interventions include study skills training, additional support and teacher guided revisions in class. This will help the students gain familiarity of the examination format and the type of questions expected. Challenging negative thoughts among the students should be worked on through effective interventions aimed at reducing test anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a widely used intervention that focuses on challenging and understanding the way a student thinks before an exam. There is need to provide more support for managing the physical symptoms of test anxiety before during and after exams. This can be achieved through a guided progressive muscle relaxation and diaphragmatic breathing.

  1. What advice would you give professors when they face first-year incoming math students who exhibit test anxiety symptoms at your university?

Recently a group of professional from American Test Anxiety Association visited the University and provided some interventions of dealing with test anxiety to the students. Their approach was quiet traditional. They pointed out that students affected by test anxiety should seek counseling and medication. However, it is pertinent to note that there are some students who might not seem affected but are still slaves to the test anxiety. The professionals recommended use of a wider approach in dealing with test anxiety cases in school. They contend that if a program made for the whole students was to be put in place, its effect would even be greater since the number students who would receive help devoid of stigmatization would greatly increase. One of their effective interventions through was by establishing Student Assistance programs and that that the school should form a counseling department, where affected students can seek services in private.

Despite their effective strategy the group failed to deliver some of the most crucial techniques during the workshop. They should have included some breathing techniques in their strategies. Students should learn to embrace relaxation techniques before and during their exams. By integrating the relaxation techniques into their pretest routine, they will be able to concentrate on their work. This can also be enhanced through deep breathing exercises, yoga and meditation which counteract the feelings of anxiety and bring the body and mind back to equilibrium. Professors should ensure they provide a continuous education and training to the incoming first year math students on how to deal with test anxiety. This should be accomplished by providing students with the latest information and the best interventions possible. Such education also serves to inform new students of school policies to ensure conformity in the future.


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