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A Look at Test Anxiety

Interview with Kansas City Blogger Local

High school and college students are no strangers to the effects of anxiety and depression.  This segment of the population however, faces a unique type of anxiety and depression that the general population rarely comes in contact with.  Test anxiety is a major issue for students the Kansas City metro area.  We met up with one local counselor to discuss test anxiety and how to deal with it.

Ben: Hello there.  This is Ben Hartman from Blogger Local Kansas City.  We’re out in Leawood with Molly Pierce, a Kansas licensed professional counselor  and owner of True Self Counseling.  We’re meeting with her today to discuss some of the upcoming anxiety that is related to the school season being in full swing.  There are a lot of tests coming up.  We met with Linden at Get Smarter Prep the other day, and she was actually talking about the ACTs coming up on September 21st.  Molly, if you can just tell us a little bit about yourself and True Self Counseling, that would be awesome.

Molly: Aright.  I started True Self Counseling in 2010.  I really have a passion to help people deal with common everyday problems, such as anxiety, depression, and communication/relationship problems.

Ben: Okay, so you deal with individuals, and then you deal with people in relationships, and then some group counseling as well?

Molly: Yes, absolutely.

Ben: You have a test anxiety clinic going on over at Get Smarter Prep.  Tell us about it.

Molly: It’s a one hour clinic in the evening to help students prepare to manage their anxiety, to get the best score that they can on their ACT or SAT.  With the ACT test coming up, we actually just did a test anxiety clinic last week.

Ben: Is it open to only people that go to Get Smarter Prep already or is it open to the general public?

Molly: This was the first one we did, and it was just Get Smarter Prep students, but I’m sure that outside people would be welcome to come.  There’s just a $25 fee.

Ben: Okay, so this is something that you guys are developing and working on, and it seemed successful this time?  There was a good turnout?

Molly: It did seem successful.  It seemed like the students really benefited from it.

Ben: There’s kind of two sides to being anxious about tests, the side where it’s impending and you’re stressed and you’re trying to learn as much you can before it comes.  Then for some people, afterwards there’s the anxiety of not having gotten the goal they strived for and being let down by or disappointed by their performance.  Can you maybe talk a little bit about the difference in the problems face on either side of the test?

Molly: Sure.  A lot of the students are getting the help they need in learning how to solve the problems on the exams and they feel confident in that aspect, but they really get freaked out about being timed and running out of time, and then there’s just this train of negative thoughts of like, what if I run out of time?  What if I fail?  Then I’m not going to get into the school I want to get into, and into my preferred profession.

Ben: It’s a compounding cycle?

Molly: Yes, it can go down this compounding hole of anxiety.  Same thing for after the test if they don’t get the score they were hoping for.  It’s almost like this sense of impending doom that now they can’t pursue the career that they want.

Ben: Yes, that their life is over.

Molly: Their life is over, even though they can really just go retake the test and go on with life.

Ben: Yes.  For some people, they feel like it speaks about them and tells people outwardly something they don’t want to convey.

Molly: That is absolutely true.  A lot of people equate their self-worth with how well they perform whether it’s on the test, or in sports, or relationships, or jobs, or whatever, so not getting a good score can actually make people feel pretty bad about themselves.

Ben: Yes.  There’s that misconception that the test score you get is a reflection of your worth, and those things are really completely exclusive.

Molly: Exactly, and that type of thinking really leads into depression and just feeling bad about yourself.

Ben: For some people that didn’t come to the clinic what could you recommend?  What are some tips that people can follow to get in their habitual nature that will help them avoid getting test anxiety or help them in reducing test anxiety?

Molly:  Anxiety is really a twofold issue.  There are the physical symptoms of anxiety, so when you feel like your breathing is getting short and shallow, and you might feel tingly.  You might feel butterflies in your stomach.  One thing you can do is deep abdominal breathing, which really calms your body and soothes the physical symptoms of anxiety. 

The other aspect of anxiety is the mental part of it.  It’s the thoughts, so if you’re thinking, oh my gosh, I’m so nervous.  I’m going to do horrible. I’m going to fail. That thinking is not going to be helpful, so you need to identify that negative thinking and change it into more positive and accurate thinking, such as I’ve prepared for this test.  I know what I’m doing.  It’s going to work out, and so forth.

Ben: Okay.  Do you have any recommended reading for people that need some encouragement, that need to help to and reinforce a better positive mental frame of mind before a test?  

Molly: Sure.  There’s lots of good reading out there on anxiety and changing negative thinking.  One book is the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook  by Edmund J. Bourne. Another good one is When Panic Attacks, which is written by David Burns, and he really does a lot in the treatment of anxiety and depression.  He’s pretty big in that world.

Ben: Okay, so that would be some good recommended reading?

Molly: Absolutely.

Ben: We will check back in with you soon so we can learn about some of the group work you’ve been doing over at the  Leawood Church of The Resurrection on the topics of depression and anxiety.  Thanks for your time, and we encourage our readers to check out your test anxiety clinic over at Get Smarter Prep as well as many of the services you offer.

Molly: Absolutely, and really, anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, marital issues can feel free to check out True Self Counseling to see if we might have services that are helpful for them.

Ben: Definitely. Thanks for your time, Molly.

Molly: Thank you.

AUTHOR

Molly Pierce

All stories by: Molly Pierce