An interesting article by Annie Murphy Paul on overcoming exam anxiety to improve test performance.
She says: “Many capable, hard-working students perform poorly on exams because they’ve overtaxed their “working memory” … “When students are anxious about how they’ll do on an exam,” says Sian Beilock, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, “their worries use up some of their working memory capacity, leaving less of this cognitive horsepower to apply to the task at hand.”
It’s something I think all teachers bump into – students who should do well, but seem to crack under the pressure of the exams and under-perform.
There’s a short questionnaire on exam anxiety (plus a ton of study skills ideas) available here: PHCC Test Anxiety Questionnaire
The ideas about maximizing performance remind me of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas about cognitive flow – that our performance peaks when we are in a high-challenge, but low-stress situation. There’s a TED talk on the topic here.