How to battle test anxiety on standardised tests.

Test anxiety is the most common factor delibilitating students on test day. A bit of anxiety is good, it keeps you focused and makes sure you don’t get complacent and careless while testing. But for some students it’s much more. Racing thoughts, unability to focus, upset stomach and many such physical and mental symptoms. This singular issue can derail your entire process, your efforts of the past few months and can psychologically affect how you perceive testing in general.
I have over the years noticed that in the weeks leading up to the actual test day, I am not only dealing with test doubts but also with the nervousness of the student, about the fear of testing and about the fear of failure. I have over time helped students with various ways and techniques to overcome this anxiety. Here I have listed what I feel are some important factors to consider when you are getting ready for a standardised test.

Before the test –

  1. Standardised tests by their definition mean predictable, tests which have a fixed format, have a pre determined syllabus and scoring system. It is imperative that you have a thorough understanding of the format and are well versed with the syllabus and concepts.
  2. Take a good amount of practice tests. This not only helps you understand your weak areas but also helps in getting you geared up for the final day. It’s important that you try and do the practice tests in the same time slot of the day as your actual test. This helps in getting your body clock in tune with the test day.
  3. Eat well in the weeks prior to test day, we underestimate the influence of healthy food on our mental make up.
  4. Sleep for at least 8 hours the night before test day, a well rested mind is a mind able to think clearly and calmly.
  5. Always go for the test expecting to be surprised. Whatever your test day strategy, keep it flexible. A student going in with a very rigid strategy will get thrown off by the slightest of things, like a slightly tougher question or a question framed differently.`

During the test-

  1. Reach your test centre at least half an hour before the test time, it helps your acclimatise with your surroundings and you don’t feel rushed right at the beginning.
  2. Don’t worry if you are unable to answer all the questions. You do not have to answer them all to get a good score, what is important is you knowing which questions to skip and which to spend time on. If after two readings you are unable to figure how to do the question, move on. Breaking your head over such a question never makes sense as you will eventually always get it wrong but you would have spent precious time on it.
  3. In the break between sections, eat your favourite candy bar. The feeling of well being as well as that slight sugar rush helps you combat the mental and physical fatigue which may begin to set in.
  4. Keep your working/rough work clean and organised. Use your rough sheets wisely. Do not try and memorise everything, do not try and do calculations/workings mentally. Put it all down on paper. The less chaotic your brain, the better it will work and the calmer you will feel.
  5. If you feel anxiety setting in, shut your eyes for a bit and try and calm yourself. Even the smallest of breaks will help you focus and regroup your thoughts.

Most important, no score can define you. A test score is not a final judgement on you or your ability. All standardised tests allow you to take multiple attempts if you are unhappy with your score. If you have a bad day, you have the ability to test again.

Posted in Informed Decisions | Leave a comment

Should you go test optional?

With undergraduate colleges going test optional for the 2021 application and now some extending that even for the 2022 application year, the students are in a dilemma about the choice. In this blog I plan to demystify the options and hopefully help the students in making an informed decision.

Firstly let us understand the difference between ‘Test optional ‘ and ‘Test blind’.

Test optional – the schools do not insist on a test score from the student. If a student does submit a score it will be considered, but for any reason a student is unable to take the test and therefore cant submit a score, the college will look into the various other academic records to check for college readiness. The student not submitting the test score will not be disadvantaged in any manner.

Test blind or Score-free – the college will not be considering test scores from any student. Even if a student does submit a test score it will not be considered by the college.

Which student should take the test and who should go test optional –

Strong academic student and strong test taker – if you are an academically strong student and are comfortable with standardised tests, please go ahead and take it. Make the right choice between the SAT or ACT and take the test. A high score will never go unnoticed by the admission committee. The only instance in which a high test score would not be considered is if the college decides to go ‘test blind’.

Strong academic student but weak test taker – if you are a strong academic student but are not comfortable with standardised tests, it still makes sense to go ahead and take the test. The fear or discomfort of testing can easily be overcome with the right coaching and guidance. The strong academic profile along with a high test score is always impressive. Start the test prep in an organised  manner  with a regular schedule and remember the test prep mantra -practice, practice, practice!

Average to low academic ability – if you are an average to low academic student, it makes sense to concentrate on your school grades and work hard on those. You can go ahead and take a few practice SAT or ACT tests to see your comfort level, if you then feel its something you can manage, go ahead and take the test. You can always choose not to report your score if its lies below the average score required by the college you are applying to, and if its higher then send across the score. The choice is yours!

 Why is it important for international students to take the test?

The colleges are going test optional and giving the students a choice. If the student doesn’t feel safe to go to a test centre or doesn’t have a test centre within the city he resides in, he can choose not to take the test. The college will then look at the other academic records submitted. The problem with this is, how does a college decide between two students who have both received an ‘A’ grade – it will then consider how rigorous and challenging is the school curriculum and compares that student with others students who came from the same school in the past. This is easy with US schools which the admission committees are familiar with. What about international schools that the committee aren’t familiar with – this is where the standardised tests help. The SAT or ACT gives them a measuring stick to grade the college readiness of a student through a common platform. With a lack of such a platform it will be difficult to gauge the level of a student through purely school records as some schools may be slightly more competitive than others or some schools may be harsh on the grading system. A student who has the choice of taking the test should go ahead and take it, submitting the score to a test optional school will never be a negative. It will just give them a yardstick, one that they are familiar with, to compare students and choose the ones that are a perfect fit for their school.

Posted in Informed Decisions | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Why do I correct papers with a pencil!

The purpose of any assessment should be to increase student learning and build their confidence in that subject. 

Why do I correct papers with a pencil! 

I have been asked this question a number of times by students and parents. The answer is simple -Red is not a positive colour! Why use a colour to correct a paper that is so loaded with negative thoughts? When students see a red mark, the first reaction is that something is incorrect, it upsets and discourages them. It’s intimidating to see red marks all across a paper.  

All corrections are hard for students to receive, even when meant constructively.  

The fears within a student for an assessment stem from the fear of failure rather than the assessment itself. Traditional grading methods need to be revised. The idea that grading work should be about spotting mistakes and correcting errors is a very narrow one. There will be far more student learning going on if the purpose of the assessment was centred around showing the students what they know, rather than what they don’t. This is not to say that the students shouldn’t made aware of what is incorrect, but that can’t be the focus of an assessment. Errors should not be treated as defeats, but a second chance to redeem yourself.  

The aim of education in modern times should be to increase opportunities for students to be active participants in the learning process. An assessment should encourage the student to see the errors and evaluate the mistakes positively, it should engage the student in self evaluation.This purposeful reflection about what they are learning and how they are learning it, gives students a voice in their learning process and methodology.  

Positive comments, self evaluation, personal attention, non-red ink – these are just some ways to create an environment of learning that is tied to enhancing student success, student self-belief and student progression through the educational channel. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dear Parent, let your child fail!

While wishing for failure may go against our parental instincts, it’s healthy — and necessary. Failing helps our children learn important life lessons about how to adapt, work hard and persevere; they’ll develop coping mechanisms, and qualities such as responsibility and accountability. 
At times I want my child to fail!
It is only when he fails that he will have an opportunity to get back up.  It is only when he fails that he will learn to work hard.  It is only when he fails that he will learn what doesn’t work.  It is only when he fails that he will learn that sometimes people need help.  It is only when he fails that he will learn empathy for others struggling.   It is only when he fails that he will learn that life is not always fair.  
I want my child to fail – and you should want yours to also.  If your children are struggling, help them to learn to succeed.  Don’t make success easy for them, but teach them the skills they need to succeed.  If your children are not struggling at times in school, ask why not.  Create a curriculum that challenges them and makes them work harder. Learning from failure is one of the most important skills they will ever learn.
The secret to a kid’s future success is to raise them in an environment where they are encouraged to test the boundaries and engage themselves regardless of the results. 

If children cant handle failure, they lose the opportunity to experiment and learn from past experiences. 
Disappointment can benefit the child, as long as you teach them how to cope with failure and how to bounce back from it.
I want my child to fail.  It is how he will learn to succeed.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Staying Alive Vs Feeling Alive

Staying Alive – We have a lot to do each day. What all we do depends on the various roles that we play – parent, professional, friend, spouse. The social norms of how these roles are to be fulfilled, traps us. The fear of failure in any of these roles, paralyses us. We spend all our waking hours in trying to succeed in these. This is called Staying Alive!

Feeling Alive – to be so consumed in the passionate bliss of the moment that you don’t think about the past or the future. You just enjoy what you’ re doing and love every piece of it. A moment ……. When looked back months or years later, automatically puts a smile on your face!

We need to have more of these moments in our lives.

In our effort to juggle the various roles in our lives, we learn to exist in life. But we forget how to live it. We need to have fun. Having fun doesn’t mean you don’t take life seriously. It just means that you enjoy whatever it is that you are doing ………. Having fun with your kid, having fun at work.

We all have different interests that we want to pursue, and also have various responsibilities that may restrict our ability to achieve them. But we can always try and make one small change, or try at least one small risk.

The point is to do something to feel passionate, excited, and exhilarated. To accept challenges and move out of the comfort zone. To feel alive doesn’t mean complicating your life, it just means to do things you want to do and enjoying the process.

Occupy some part of the day with things that put a smile on your face.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

My calling

My Calling ……….
What is it that makes you happy? The first obstacle that we face in answering this question is to figure out what it is that truly makes us happy. If you didn’t have to worry about the constraint of time, the pressures of everyday life …… What is it that you would do?

The minute you answer that question …. You have found your calling.

My WORK is my calling ……

Being a teacher is my true calling. Over the years I have worked as a teacher and have considered myself lucky to have been able to turn a passion into a profession. But that’s all that I considered it to be …… A passion to teach! It’s only now that I realised that all of us have a function to perform ….. Mine is to teach. This is my purpose in life.
Today even after 13 years of being in this profession, every time I take a class it feels as if I am doing it for the first time. I am just as excited as I was all those years ago. It’s exhilarating to see a student succeed and to see the joy of achievement. The moment that I cherish is to see the look of accomplishment when a student has arrived at the solution all by himself. Knowing that I have helped someone achieve their goal, gives me the motivation to work even harder.
Everyday as a teacher I learn something new ….. I learn about people and their behavior.
My interaction with my students has taught me number of valuable lessons ….. Not just about teaching but also about life. I think the biggest mistake teachers make is when they teach the way they were taught. When they think of a student as inferior, less intelligent and less knowing. Over the years what has struck me as the most important aspect of being a teacher …. Is the ability to listen. To pay attention to what the student is saying. It has helped me improve my way of teaching and has made me value a students opinion.
For me being a teacher is all about an emotional connect ….. I have very often been told that isn’t the way one runs a business. But how can I effectively teach without motivating the student to learn. My student will be passionate about learning if he sees me passionate about teaching.
My calling is what I do ten hours a day …. Can’t think of a better way of leading life!

Posted in Informed Decisions | 4 Comments