Students with test anxiety deserve accommodations

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Photo Credit: Audrey Williams | Daily Texan Staff

Final exam season came and went this spring as it does every semester, but this time, finals brought a new set of obstacles and unprecedented worries. As we were forced to study without libraries, have our professor communication restricted to email and our questions drowned out in crowded video chats, the fear of failure seemed to spread faster than the virus.

As testing anxiety became a reality for many, students across the Forty Acres demanded new academic accommodations and a modified grading system. University officials heard these demands and eventually implemented a pass/fail policy for the spring semester. But UT still fails to provide accommodations for students struggling with test anxiety every semester. 

“Even before (COVID-19), I have had so many exams at UT where, despite my preparedness, I have almost run out of time,” finance senior Jonathan Danielson said. “The battle against the clock really gets to me, and it leads to massive test anxiety.”

Biology junior Katie Greene echoed Danielson’s concerns.

“Test anxiety gets in the way of my performance on tests and doesn’t actually display what I know,” Greene said. “It only displays my fight with overcoming testing anxiety long enough to attempt to take the test.”

 The commonality between their struggles: time.

Currently, time accommodations for UT-administered exams are limited to students with documented attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. According to the Mayo Clinic, students with ADHD often have poor school performance due to problems focusing and prioritizing. However, research shows students suffering from test anxiety experience similar cognitive symptoms, along with additional physical and emotional manifestations.

According to publications from The University of North Carolina, experiences vary from student to student, but nausea, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, faintness, panic attacks, feelings of helplessness, negative thoughts, difficulty concentrating and procrastination are only some of the extensive symptoms of those suffering from test anxiety.

The UT Counseling and Mental Health Center must stop dismissing test anxiety as something that can be solved with new study strategies, journaling and breathing techniques. 

According to Services for Students with Disabilities, maintaining academic accommodations is a way to “level the playing field” and “minimize the impact of a student’s disability on their academic performance.” But if this is the SSD’s true intention, they must address test anxiety as an equally debilitating condition and enhance test accommodations for anxiety-ridden students.

“If students need more time or other exam accommodations, it should not be hard to get,” Danielson said. “With the amount of money we are paying the University, we should be able to take an exam that best suits our individual accommodations.”

However, some students are quick to disagree. 

“It would be difficult to find a cutoff for what is considered being anxious enough to get special accommodations,” nutrition sophomore Carolina Flores said. 

But ultimately, while there may be growing pains, it is the responsibility of the University to develop a system for diagnosing students with test anxiety, be an advocate for all students and create an equitable and inclusive plan for student success.

Daniel is a biomedical engineering and French senior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.