The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

From the Head of Senior School


Anxiety is a normal and, to a certain point, necessary part of life. However, too much anxiety impairs performance.

The image below shows that performance does increase as arousal or pressure increases, but when this goes beyond the tipping point, pressure gives way to stress and anxiety which in turn impairs performance. There are some things you can do to assist yourself in dealing with the pressure that comes with completing assessments, especially in-class timed assessments such as tests and examinations.

anxiety graph

Here are some hints and tips -

  1. Know that you know what you know. Much of test or examination anxiety comes from a fear of poor performance. If you can test yourself adequately prior to an assessment and go in with the knowledge that you do know your stuff, you will find that your anxiety diminishes.
  2. Symptoms of stress and anxiety can be worsened by changes in sleeping and eating routines, but they can be diminished by physical activities like walking, running or swimming. Stay involved in your sport training even during busy periods. Eat and sleep well.
  3. If you're short of time, try focusing most of your time on the areas that need work rather than those you know and can remember well. This way you can cover more of the course material.
  4. Avoid other frantic students. Beware of picking up on the concerns of other students as this can increase your own anxiety.
  5. Replace negative thoughts such as "I'm going to fail this exam" with positive statements such as "I studied hard so I'll do well in this exam". Positive statements help reduce anxiety and increase confidence.
  6. Try to focus on the task at hand. That is, focus on the activity of studying rather than on potential negative consequences.
  7. Be organised. Start your preparation early.
  8. Identify your areas of concern early in the term and ask for help. Often those who feel uneasy about assessments are those who have discovered that they have gaps in their understanding. By asking for help early you reduce these gaps and build your confidence.
  9. Keep good notes and review them regularly. In subjects such as Mathematics, review by completing practice questions, not just reading over worked examples.

Reducing anxiety in the classroom immediately before the assessment.

  1. Look over the whole test or examination to discover which questions you can do relatively easily and plan to do these first. Play to your strengths.
  2. Examine the marking scheme of the assessment and allocate your time accordingly. Do not spend too much time on questions which are worth only a few marks. E.g. Spend 10% of your time on 10% of the marks. Plan your approach to the assessment.
  3. Apportion your time based on where you can maximise your results. E.g. In an essay question it is much more difficult to gain those final few marks to get the perfect score than it is to begin the next essay question and secure the same number of marks more easily.
  4. It may be helpful to set mini breaks at specified points during the assessment to close your eyes, relax your hands or do some deep breathing exercises. Even 30 seconds of relaxation can help reduce anxiety.
  5. At all times try to focus on answering the questions rather than on the end result.
  6. If you go blank and can't think of anything to write, go onto another question or another part of the exam. On an essay, jot down anything you can recall to stimulate your memory and get your mind working.
  7. Ask for clarification if you're unsure about directions, procedures etc.

Please note: If you continue to feel that stress and anxiety are impacting upon your performance and you have done everything on the list above to assist in your preparation for assessments please speak to your parents, your teacher or your House Head. It may even be a good idea to discuss with Mum and Dad about talking to our College Psychologists, Mrs Shauna Lipscombe or Mr Jon Marginis, who will be able to offer some further advice and helpful hints.

Mr Dean Shadgett
Head of Senior School