September 28, 2015

Test Anxiety and Essay Questions

Many people who normally have little difficulty taking tests find themselves freezing up because of test anxiety when they are faced with essay questions. Because essay questions require more detailed recall of test material, as well as the ability to express complex concepts thoroughly and logically, they can be the most intimidating part of any standardized test.

If you find yourself experiencing extreme test anxiety when required to answer essay questions, there are measures you can take both while studying for the test and during the test itself to help get your anxiety under control.


Studying for Essay Questions

The best way to prepare for essay questions is to study specifically for this type of question. Rather than simply reading through facts and having test partners ask questions that can be answered with a single sentence, focus on the type of questions that can appear on the test in essay question format. If there are essay questions in the study materials, use these as a jumping off point to formulate your own questions. Thinking through the answers to more complex questions will also help cement the test material in your mind, helping you do better on every kind of question on the test.

Managing Essay Questions During the Test

If you have prepared for essay questions, they should be less likely to trigger test anxiety when you encounter them on the actual test. However, if you find yourself drawing a blank due to test anxiety when attempting to explain your answers, do not panic.

Try one of the following techniques instead:

  1. Brainstorm about the answer by jotting down anything and everything that comes into your head until a pattern emerges. Then, work from this pattern of information to formulate your answer.
  2. Move on to a simpler essay question. Sometimes the answers to previous questions will occur to you while you are working on other parts of the test.
  3. Try to formulate a brief outline of the answer, and then flesh out the outline to form your final answer.

These techniques take some of the pressure off, as they do not require you to produce fully-formed answers on the first pass. By breaking questions down during the test and allowing yourself to work in a more free-form manner, you can reduce or bypass test anxiety regarding essay questions.