Do tests like the TCAP cause anxiety?

Experts say anxiety could play a major role in low test scores.
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 7:07 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program or TCAP, was designed to assess true student understanding, not basic memorization and test taking skills.

Many parents were frustrated with the results of the TCAP scores, they said the results of this “make or break” test for third-graders does not reflect what their child is capable of. With so much weighing on the results of those tests, people asked if anxiety played a role in the disappointing scores.

Experts said students were under too much pressure.

Many people worried that one reason students did do well in the classroom but then scored poorly on these tests, like the TCAP, is because of the stress and anxiety that comes with the standardized testing. Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety that can impact anyone from a medical school student to a first-grader.

A number of reasons can cause someone anxiety while testing such as the fear of failing and not feeling confident in the material on the test.

Kala Downey is the co-owner of Tutor Doctor based out of Knoxville and Chattanooga. Tutor Doctor provides tutoring services to students of all ages, levels and subjects. They go to your home, to help you or your child to fill in the gaps in their knowledge base. Downey said since the pandemic kids were really struggling in school, that’s why they are there to help.

“We sit down and we work through. Yeah there may be tears, there may be crying, but its going to be like alright we’re still going to do this. Every kid has to and I’m going to help you with it,” said Downey.

She said it was common for her to work with students who do well in the classrooms but cannot seem to pass the standardized tests.

“It’s not an accurate representation. The straight A’s that gives you your first clue. These are overachieving kids, they’re high functioning performers and they go in and they see one question they’re not sure about and it just crumbles. Weeks of studying, weeks of being like, yeah I know this, I knew it in the classroom and now I’ve lost it because of just one thing messed up their confidence,” said Downey.

Another issue was students who were struggling to even finish the tests, they get half way though and lose focus. Some students were learning the method rather than the material. She said this caused the stress and self-doubting during the exam.

Downey offered some ways to cope during moments of panic while you’re testing, such as eating a good meal before, if you are struggling with a question move to the next, try not to worry about time and focus on yourself only.

She said if your test anxiety is getting out of hand to see a therapist to try to get an individual learning plan set up in your school system.