Many children, teens suffer from ‘test stress,’ psychologists say

It’s that time of year when students of all ages face finals, standardized testing and college entrance exams.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – It’s that time of year when students of all ages face finals, standardized testing and college entrance exams.

“There’s no question this can be a very stressful time for kids,” said Psychologist Dr. Daniel Bober.

After the pressure of college entrance exams, 16-year-old Ellie Zanegood was devastated to be denied by her first choice, Florida State University.

“It hit me hard because it was my top school and everyone wants to get into their top school,” she said.

Bober said the pressure to perform and succeed can have a negative impact on adolescent mental health.

“I have kids who come into my office as patients who have severe test anxiety,” he said. “They are experiencing a continuous barrage of ‘what ifs.’ These are intrusive thoughts that are literally contaminating their brain and it distracts them and it affects them academically.”

Instead of focusing on test scores and grades, Bober said parents can help ease academic stress by teaching their kids flexibility, curiosity and resilience.

“By getting them involved in other things beside school, for example martial arts or learning an instrument, other things that they can use to develop and strengthen their ego and sense of self esteem so that they will be able to tolerate the times when they don’t get the things they want and things don’t work out the way they want them to,” he said.

In the end, everything worked out for Zanegood when FSU reviewed her application and realized some key elements in her application had been overlooked.

She’s now looking forward to heading to Tallahassee in the fall and mentally preparing for the challenges ahead.

“I’m anxious but excited and ready to go to FSU because it’ll be a new experience,” she said.

Studies have found that levels of the stress hormone cortisol can jump by 15% in some students prior to taking a test.

About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.