Tip: Reducing Exam Anxiety
"Friends without Pens" gives students time to chat about the exam before starting.
A tweet from math teacher Howie Hua that popped up in my feed recently (below) sent me down a rabbit hole of great ideas for helping to reduce exam anxiety, with lots of people chiming in to say they used similar pre-quiz or pre-exam “chat time” to help students do better on the assessment.
One respondent called the strategy “friends, no pens,” and I was intrigued. Down the rabbit hole, I went. In the AP Physics C: Mechanics Course and Exam Description I finally found the College Board’s description of Friends Without Pens:
Students are given a free-response question, quiz, or challenging problem. “Friends without pens” takes place in two rounds: the first round is the timed “friends without pens” round, in which students are grouped together and can discuss— but not write about—the question. At the end of the time, students return to their desks for the “pens without friends” round, where they tackle the assignment in the traditional, independent sense.
I will admit - I have never done this, but I’m intrigued. I love that this quick chat might help students feel a bit more relaxed going into an exam, with the added benefit of refreshing their memory about important topics. Depending on the subject and exam content, I could even see incorporating a question asking the student to respond to a classmate’s opinion or interpretation of a topic, after giving them some time to share ideas.
What strategies have you tried to help students reduce exam anxiety - and have they worked?
For more reading…
UNC Chapel Hill Learning Center Test Anxiety tips include avoiding (too much) caffeine and drinking plenty of water
Princeton Review advises that the blank page can be paralyzing - so just start
Even the Mayo Clinic offers some tips - a good night’s sleep, of course, and exercise the day of the exam can help