Previous
Next

Test anxiety

October 2, 2008, 4:00 pm

Sorry for the infrequent postings; this day job thing is eating up all my time! For this post I just have a simple question for you: Does “test anxiety” exist?

By putting the term in quotes, I am referring to test anxiety as a pathological condition that a person can have or not have, as opposed to the perfectly normal anxiety that everybody feels when they do something high-stakes, like taking a test. The reason I am asking this question is that I overheard a student in the hallway today saying something to the effect of, “I went to the doctor/psychologist and he told me I have test anxiety.” That struck me as a strange thing to say. Everybody gets nervous before performances, and so if everybody “has” it, does anybody really “have” it? And does having it phrased as a diagnosis of a condition, given by a medical professional or counselor mean that it’s really a kind of medical condition?

When I was in school, I was anxious before every test I ever took, but to me that just meant that I needed to prepare thoroughly. If test anxiety is a diagnosis of a condition, then it’s not a preparation issue but some kind of thing that is happening to me and there’s nothing I can do short of taking medicines and getting all kinds of special dispensations from teachers. That seems like a really big difference from the student’s standpoint.

By the way, you can very well substitute “math anxiety” for “test anxiety” and ask the same questions. So, comment away.

This entry was posted in Education, Teaching and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.