Test anxiety is reported to be a rapidly growing problem in the United States. Research shows that this problem is exacerbated in girls and young women for every age group. Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety related to academic evaluation. Its indications may be subtle, but its effects can take a profound toll on girls. Fortunately, parents and caregivers can implement some simple strategies to help alleviate their girls’ fears.
Why Girls Experience More Academic Anxiety
Girls of all ages are known to have a significantly lower confidence level than their male counterparts. Thanks to hormonal differences and age-related fluctuations, girls also can have a higher level of emotionality. Historically, girls are judged more harshly on their academic performance than boys, grounding at least part of their fears in reality. Finally, the research relates effective teaching to academic performance fears. For reasons still mostly unknown, teachers of both genders tend to interact more frequently and in greater detail with male students than with girls. This may lead to girls and young women believing they are not adequately prepared for testing.
Signs Your Daughter Has Test Anxiety
In its most benign form, a girl with test anxiety may feel queasy or have butterflies in her stomach before a big exam. She may feel shaky, sweaty or like she might vomit. In more extreme cases, she may experience full-blown panic attacks, feel light-headed or as though she might faint. Girls may not sleep well in the days leading up to a big test or lose their appetite. Young women with extreme test anxiety may be unwilling or unable to even get out of bed on the big day. Or, they may get up and go to school but report to the nurse before test time, feeling sick and asking to be sent home. It is important to understand that these physical symptoms are real, not a ploy or made up in their heads.
Helping Girls through School-Related Fears
Although test fears can be present in even the most prepared girls, helping them develop good study habits early on will do much to increase a young woman’s confidence throughout her academic career. Ensuring that she eats right and gets enough sleep is important at all times, but even more so leading up to an important exam. Encourage your daughter to verbalize her fears rather than keeping them bottled up. Provide encouragement, but avoid blithely dismissing her concerns with assurances that she’s a bright girl. Acknowledge the importance and difficult nature of the exam, but reaffirm your confidence in her abilities. Encourage her to express her fears in writing, a technique psychologists use to help people with depression and anxiety. Finally, teach her basic relaxation techniques that she can use in the test room, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
If your daughter is experiencing a debilitating level of anxiety, whether it relates to performance or other emotional issues, consider seeking professional intervention to help her overcome her fears. Havenwood Academy, through experiential therapy and other proven modalities, can help ease the challenge of test anxiety and its related complications.