When Test Anxiety Gets in the Way of Performance...
What the New Barnard President Has to Say About Succeeding Under Pressure…And Why It Really Matters for Your Child’s Performance
The new president of Barnard College, Sian Beilock, is a hero of ours at Tutor Associates, and if you spend some time with her book, Choke, as we have, you’ll understand why.
Since we agree with President Beilock that success often depends on knowing how to perform under pressure, and since all of your kids need to learn to do just this, we’ve outlined the key points and how we introduce them into your children’s programs.
1) PRACTICE UNDER PRESSURE
What President Beilock says: “Practicing under the types of pressures you will face on the big testing day is one of the best ways to combat choking.”
What TA Does: Inoculation is key. Regular (thoughtful) testing and timed practice sets in session condition your brain to manage stress and lead to better performance on official tests. We have mock testing in the morning (like the real thing), and we have our students practice breathing, noting, visualization, reframing (among others) so they have tools to combat inevitable stressors.
2) WRITE AWAY THE WORRY
What President Beilock says: “Expressive writing reduces negative thinking, which frees up cognitive horsepower to tackle what comes your way...putting your feelings into words changes how the brain deals with stressful information.”
What TA Does: TA tutors know that many kids need to write out their negative feelings ahead of official (or practice) testing. We encourage our students to write down any stresses or worries they may have regarding a presentation or test and then to throw the paper away. Writing down worries helps free up space in the brain to focus on the task at hand.
3) ORGANIZE WHAT YOU KNOW
What President Beilock says: “Coming up with meaningful ways to organize the information you need to remember for a big test or presentation can help take the burden off your working-memory and actually help you remember more.”
What TA Does: Our in-house test-anxiety expert, Sarah Evans, encourages students to use a memory dump trick: at the top of a math section, for example, kids might jot down all the formulas they use to free up their working memory to solve test problems, thus enhancing performance.
4) MEDITATE ON WHAT MATTERS
What President Beilock says: “The age old practice of meditation helps extinguish distracting and worrisome thoughts that plague us in stressful times.”
What TA Does: We trick our kids into meditation with...Beilock’s science. We normalize tools (breathing, noting, refocusing) that calm the brain, allowing it the ability to solve problems effectively and manage obstacles with grit.