Every student has experienced test anxiety to some degree. Whether a person is taking a 3rd grade math test or sweating through a chemistry final in university, pressure and nervousness are often associated with these situations. However, what a lot of people don’t know is that some students suffer from such severe test anxiety that they experience symptoms that are not only out of their control but that also have a negative effect on students’ overall education. These people experience butterflies in their stomach, sweaty palms, a dry mouth, and even nausea—and that’s just the physical symptoms! Cognitive symptoms such as a lack of focus, avoiding academic situations entirely, and turning to outside substances such as alcohol or medications can occur and have lasting effects on the students’ success. Some of these people even experience depression and low self-esteem from the thought of taking exams. In short, test anxiety is no laughing matter. For some people, much of time is spent trying to come up with a way to prevent test anxiety and to get over the embarrassment. One solution to the test anxiety problems is a formative assessment.
The responsibility for finding a way to overcome test anxiety doesn’t just lie with the student. Instructors and the educational institution itself should take an active part in trying to solve this problem. It has been observed in many cases that changing the testing environment can greatly reduce test anxiety. Sometimes sitting in a crowded room with other students writing an exam can put pressure on someone with test anxiety because he or she can get distracted more easily. Likewise, the student might lose track of time in these situations and start to panic near the end of the exam due to inability to manage time effectively. An obvious solution is to allow these students to write tests in a room where they are on their own and can focus. But to have even better results, using online testing and formative assessment, both for practice tests and during the real thing, can lower pressure on an individual and allow him or her to focus more easily. Plus the test helps the instructor determine where exactly a given student’s weaknesses lie while taking an exam.
Formative assessment is a type of online testing that allows teachers to track their students as they take exams online and give real-time feedback to them as they are writing. This allows an instructor to guide students and cater specifically to their needs. If a student suffers from test anxiety and therefore doesn’t perform well, the instructor can track the student and pay special attention to him or her online. The teacher can identify the questions that caused a student the most trouble or anxiety. Formative assessment helps the teacher determine how to go about teaching these students in the future and what their needs are during an exam. Plus there are benefits for the students because they can track the amount of time that has passed, and they are secluded from others which helps them focus.
In short, formative assessment allows instructors to pinpoint a student’s trouble areas and actively work to prevent them. These benefits have a huge impact on student-teacher relationships, and they will make a huge difference on the quality of education students receive in the future.