Test Anxiety

The Amygdala is a part of the brain that is our “alarm system.” It is on patrol 24/7 looking for danger. It is constantly monitoring for potential harm. It will also remember stressful situations and will trigger when similar situations recur (certain classrooms, test anxiety, dental office). The Amygdala is where test anxiety comes from.

When the Amygdala is triggered, stress hormones are released in the brain. These hormones make it difficult to either learn something new or remember information you have learned previously. Your brain will start focusing on the stress instead of the learning task.

Your goal is to stop the flow of stress hormones as quickly as possible. Here are a few tips:

  • Flip the test over and start writing down simple facts you know about the material (formulas, math facts, acronyms, diagrams). This redirects your brain by focusing on data rather than emotion.
  • Think of something funny. Humor decreases stress and anxiety.
  • Smile. Your brain actually has a motor memory of facial patterns. You may be able to trick your brain into thinking you are happier than you actually are!
  • Water lowers levels of the stress hormone in the brain. Stay hydrated. Drink 5-10 minutes before a test.
  • Repetition of a phrase, mantra, scripture, quote, or verse can help to relax the brain. 
  • Sleep is essential for memory storage. 8-9 hours is needed. Less than 6 hours and your brain will be impaired the next day.

Adapted from Emotion and Learning Seminar by Kimberly Carraway. Kimberly is a local educational consultant who specializes in brain based teaching and learning strategies. She lectures in Nashville and around the country on how to practically apply the latest neuroscience research to student learning. For upcoming seminars and conferences, please visit www.carrawaycenter.wordpress.com

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