Test Anxiety Essay, Research Paper
Test Anxiety is a disorder that effects many people. There are many theories and ideas about what actually causes this anxiety. This paper will discuss a few examples and give some solutions to getting around the anxious test feelings. Test anxiety is defined as a special case of specific phobia. It brings on certain phenomenological, physiological, and behavioral responses, which are usually related to fear of failure (Sapp, 183). A specific phobia, is a fear of certain objects or events, such as a fear of heights or enclosed places (Gleitman, A49). Researchers believe that test anxiety begins at a young age in most children. Usually preschool, or whenever a child s performance or personality seems to conflict with what they believe their parents unrealistic expectations would be (Sapp, 183). When a parent gives negative reinforcement towards a child s work, it will usually lead to some sort of anxiety in the future, in order to not receive that same negative attitude from their parents when performing a similar task. There are two major components of test anxiety, worry and emotionality. Liebert and Morris first conceptualized these two components in 1967. They defined these terms in the following way. Worry is the fear of doing something wrong. The definition of emotionality is in terms of the physiological reactions evoked by evaluative stress (Spielberger, 7). These reactions are feelings of tension, apprehension, and nervousness. When these responses occur while taking an exam, it can usually be classified as the condition; test anxiety. Another belief about test anxiety is that it is a result of crucial real life consequences for examinees. In a test performed in 1966 by Sarason, it was observed that when 10%of the most anxious students and 10% of the least anxious students of an elementary school were quizzed. The high anxious students were over one year behind national norms in reading and math basic performance. The low anxious students were the opposite, they were one year ahead of the national norm (Zeidner, 5). This proves that anxiety does have an effect on performance. Wine, in 1971 stated that test anxiety is primarily due to the worry cognitions experienced by students during examination (Spielberg, 7). Meaning that their intellectual growth from infancy to adulthood, contains worry about testing. There are many solutions to solving the problem of test anxiety. I will only discuss three of the possible treatments. In actuality there is a vast array of solutions to this anxiety. The first of these is called coping. Coping eliminates or modifies the conditions that produce stress. It also keeps the emotional consequences within manageable bounds (Zeidner, 307). This theory involves a person s constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage the internal and external demands of the stressful situation, such as the exam (Zeidner, 306). Coping is a linear process involving three major steps. The first of these steps is called primary appraisal. This is the process of perceiving and evaluating a situation as involving threat, challenge, harm or benefit to one s self . The second step in the linear pattern is something that is called secondary appraisal, meaning, the process of bringing to mind a variety of potential responses to situations appraised to be threatening or challenging . The final step is called specific coping responses (Zeidner, 307). Coping has a buffering effect on stress. It has significant value under moderate to high stressful situations, but in a low stress situation, it will be less effective (Zeidner, 307). Coping effectiveness must be examined in the context in which problems occur; without information about the social context we would only have half the story (Lazarus, 299). Due to the lack of evidence on coping, I am unable to conclude on effectiveness of coping in solving test anxiety.
The next solution to test anxiety, is cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is, a generic term that refers to a wide array of therapeutic approaches directed toward modifying the worry and irrational thought patterns of test anxious clients (Zeidner, 367) . There are three general areas of cognitive therapies. The first group uses cognitive therapy (CT) alone in treating test anxiety. A second group uses CT in combination with other treatment components such as study counseling (SC) or systematic desensitization (SD) (Spielberg, 135). Systematic desensitization tries to counter-condition an anxiety that has been previously classically conditioned as a stressful situation. It usually involves training in deep muscle relaxation while visualizing stressful situations. This will eventually cause the patient to be able to approach high stress situations without experiencing anxiety (Zeidner, 356). The third group consists of several studies that compared CT alone with combinations of CT and other treatment components. After testing these theories they found that the first group is ineffective in most people. It may have reduced the anxiety, but not to a significant extent. In nine out of ten tests, CT alone showed a decrease in anxiety, but in only two of these tests, did it show an improvement in test grades or performance (Spielberg, 136). The second group produced a decrease in test anxiety, but it was still insignificant. Using the theory of systematic desensitization was found to be the most effective when performed. It showed a decrease in anxiety, and raised the performance level significantly (Spielberg, 135). After a patient went through this therapy, they were able to reduce the physiological effects of anxiety that in turn reduced the overall anxiety. One other treatment for test anxiety, is parental behavior. Parental attitude can also be considered prevention for test anxiety. This would be for a parent to form a positive relationship with their child. If a parent sends positive messages to their child, when at a young age, they will not feel as anxious during stressful situations (Sapp, 194). There is no concrete evidence proving this to be completely effective. More research is needed investigating the effects of parental influences and child-parental interactions and their possible long term effects. (Sapp, 184). The only way to know if a treatment is truly effective, is by then testing the person, monitoring them for anxiety and a significant raise in test scores as well as a raise in GPA. Test anxiety is a problem that effects many people. This condition is one of the leading reasons for failure amongst students of all ages. But, as discussed in this paper, it can be prevented or treated in many ways. All that is needed is a little bit of positive reinforcement. In conclusion, the best way to overcome test anxiety is to either possibly prevent it by positive parental reinforcement, or to undergo the theory of systematic desensitization. SD has been proven one of the most effective and popular forms of treatments, and therefore, it would be the best way to overcome this specific phobia. In the future, a person suffering from test anxiety should get in the habit of relaxing their muscles when approaching or thinking of stressful situations. This will then lead to a calmer response when approaching an exam or another fearful situation.