“Reducing Stress from Tests!”

“I am going to fail the FCAT and repeat third grade!” “I don’t have enough time for the test!” “I can’t sleep the night before the test!”

February and March many students across the state prepare to take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) and the stress for some is insurmountable.  Psychiatrists across the state have hospitalized students for emotional disorders due to stress associated with the FCAT.

On the other side, the test is a way to measure students’ knowledge.  Many remember the pre-FCAT days when kids were pushed up to the next grade regardless of whether they were ready.

Stress has a purpose!  Stress puts our bodies on alert to let us know something needs to be done!  We can use the extra energy from anxiety we need to study or prepare for the test.  Remember the students in school that stressed the most about the test (“I’m going to fail!”) and yet always scored “A’s.” They had the extra energy to increase their motivation to study and be prepared.

So the FCAT is here for now and many teachers and parents want to know what to do to help reduce the stress from the test. Watch Jim West’s Interview with Fox35’s Heidi Hatch or Read Jim’s Tips below.

7 Tips for Reducing Stress from the Test!

  1. Be Positive: “It’s just a test and you are going to do great!” Parents and teachers need to “stay calm” and “be confident” and your student will do the same.  Calm confident parents produce calm confident kids and anxious parents produce anxious kids.  Teachers and Parents need to be careful not to express their stress about the test in front of their kids.  Be positive and talk about the benefits of the test rather than complain or voice discontent about the test.
  2. Fun After Test Event: Give the student something to look forward to after the FCAT!  Plan a trip to the movies, park, amusement park, a fun dinner, etc.
  3. Rest: For us to be at our best mentally, emotionally, and physically for school, tests, and work we need 8-10 hours of deep sleep.  Even though teens feel the need to be up late at night studies, have shown they perform better when they are getting at least 8 hours of sleep.
  4. Food for Thought: “What we eat effects how we think!”  Eating a health breakfast full of protein and fruit: Eggs, Sausage, Steak, Greek Yogurt, Protein Smoothies, etc.  Protein keeps the metabolism going increasing mental energy, and fruit helps with memory.  Protein metabolizes in 4 – 12 hours keeping mental focus, mood control, short-term memory at its optimum. Foods with sugar or carbohydrates metabolize in 30 minutes and leave children and adults feeling sluggish, tired and lack mental energy. For More Food for Thought Ideas.
  5. Relax: Exercise, Relaxation Techniques, Slow deep breathes while imagining a relaxing place like the ocean, Praying, Stretching, and Meditation.
  6. Be Comfortable: If the student can dress comfortably but also bring a sweater or jacket in case the room is cold.  Tight or loose clothes could cause discomfort.
  7. On Time: Being a few minutes early may allow the student to find a comfortable seat, and relax before the test.  Tardiness or the possibility of being late can get the day started off on the wrong foot.  This causes rushing, or worrying and starts the morning with high anxiety on an already stressful day.

Are there any Accommodations for the FCAT?

Students in special-education programs who have an Individual Education Plan in place and students with limited English proficiency are given special accommodations to take the tests.  Accommodations are for those that might need extra time on the test or a quieter smaller classroom.  If students have an ADHD diagnosis, Learning Disorders, Test Anxiety, Social Anxiety, etc, they might be eligible for accommodations.  If a family feels their student may be eligible consult with your schools learning resource coordinator or mental health professional for a diagnosis.

How to Prepare for the FCAT!

Bookstores and libraries have reference guides and books focusing on test-taking strategies. The Florida Department of Education provides online help through FCAT Explorer.  FCAT Explorer is an interactive test divided into grade-level sections for math and reading.  It’s designed to help students practice the skills needed to perform well on FCAT.

What if my Student Needs Extra Help?

If you feel you or your student has anxiety, learning issues, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, focus issues, or behavioral issues contact a counselor specializing in these issues.

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