Test anxiety software helps students improve test scores

Shannon Cron

Senior Kyle Ribich gives the new software a try while in Wellness class.

Emma Eldred

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Stressing out over the next big chemistry test, the anxious student clips the heartbeat monitor on his earlobe and sits for hours until he finally steadies to his breathing. Watching the ball rise and fall over the waves and trying to keep the hot air balloon flying, he becomes more confident in his steady breathing abilities and is ready for next week’s test.

Last spring, wellness teacher Ms. Connie Fourre found a computer software program called emWave that helps students overcome testing anxiety and improve test scores by teaching them how to regulate their breathing and maintain a consistent heartbeat. The software was installed with the help of learning specialist Mr. Dave Herbst, and students have already seen improvements in their school work.

When using emWave, students place a small clasp on their ear lobes that reads the heartbeat and breathing pattern and puts it up visually on the screen with a red bar that displays the inconsistency of their heartbeat and a green bar that displays the consistency. The goal is to increase the green bar and decrease the red bar.

EmWave provides recorded lessons that coach the user on how to steady his or her breathing while following the ball as it rises and falls steadily over a calm wave. Games such as trying to keep a hot-air balloon aloft are also provided to make the program more goal oriented and easily relatable.

The software is still a very new concept to the BSM community and has yet to prove its potential in testing results. “Once finals come up, we are hoping to see results and have some data to see how well it’s working,” said Mr. Herbst.

Junior Grace Ronning has been using testing anxiety software for a couple of years now to help relax her brain during a test and has become much more confident in her abilities. “If I ever feel anxiety before a test, I do one of my breathing exercises,” said Ronning. “Because of the software program I’ve been able to focus better on tests and improve my scores.”

A simple way to understand how the software works is to see the brain as having two parts: an intellectual part and emotional part. The two parts communicate with one another but react separately. When a student with testing anxiety sees a test, the emotional part of their brain takes over and leaves no room for the intellectual part to function properly.

With a steady heartbeat and a regular breathing pattern, the emotional and intellectual parts allow themselves to balance out and work together for a better result. “You’re teaching your breathing to become regular, so your brain waves become regular, and then you perform better,” said Ms. Fourre.

Any student can use the software located in Mr. Herbst’s classroom whenever they like, but in order to see successful results, a student should begin using emWave two to three times each week.

Mr. Herbst has introduced emWave to a number of students whom he helps with testing anxiety or learning disabilities, and it has been a popular tool to help them relax their minds while they’re taking a test. “The kids who have used it love it, and we have a line out the door to use it,” said Mr. Herbst.

EmWave has also been introduced to senior students during their wellness classes with Ms. Fourre in order to inform the students of the technology that is always available to them if they feel they need to use it or would like to try it. “People are skeptical about it, which is understandable, but they just need to try it,” said Ms. Fourre.

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