This week we are focusing on Mindfulness as a tool to help students cope with or reduce exam/assessment stress.
Practise relaxing rituals with students (e.g., mindfulness strategies, calming breathing, stress-busting visualisations) so these will be readily available for them to activate immediately before or during tests when they are feeling stressed.
- Tell a joke or personal anecdote about your own exam experiences.Humour releases dopamine, a brain chemical that reduces stress and increases memory and motivated effort.
- Remind students to recall their common mistakes and how they correct them, so they don’t intrude during the test.Such errors might include: prematurely selecting an answer without reviewing all the options, not looking carefully at what is asked, not using estimation to see if a math answer is reasonable, and forgetting to check that the number where they’re marking their answer corresponds to the question number.
- Encourage students to create a “mental suitcase” on scrap paper.Students will reduce stress and increase memory retrieval if they begin the test by writing on scrap paper the most important points, formulas, anagrams, procedures, or other information they think they’ll need for the test. Their retrieval efficiency increases when they’re not trying to hold that important information in working memory throughout the test.
- Visualise their own successful performance.Just as visualising a tennis swing or soccer kick activates critical motor brain networks, their visualisations will increase confidence, reduce stress, and preheat the memory circuits they’ll want to access.
- Reinforce test-taking tips you’ve previously shared with them.For example, tell students that if they don’t know an answer, they should go on to the next question—they may find information that triggers related memories in other questions.
When you guide students with strategies to reduce test stress, you also help them build emotional resilience, learn more efficiently, and activate their highest levels of cognition, while promoting their success in activating their brain’s best resources during tests.
Thank you for reading,
The Teaching and Learning Team