“Lila’s” anxiety increases as her hard work doesn’t translate into good grades

"Lila"“Lila” – An 8th grade student who develops anxiety as her hard work does not result in good grades.

Situation: Lila is an extremely conscientious eighth grade student who puts in many hours with homework each night. She often gets extra credit for the projects and activities she does at home, yet does poorly on tests. Her grades are all A’s in homework and range from C’s to E’s on tests, and she finds final exams particularly difficult.

Even though Lila works hard and knows the information the night before when her parents test her, she says she goes into class the next day and “her mind is a blank.” Her self-esteem is suffering and she believes everyone else is smarter than she is. Giving up extracurricular activities to make more time to study hasn’t seemed to help. The result is that Lila gets more upset and seems to have developed some test anxiety.

Key Factors:

  • Lila takes her school work very seriously.
  • She receives high grades on homework and projects, and although she studies and knows the information the night before, her in-class test results are very poor.
  • She’s given up her extracurricular activities to spend more time on her studies.
  • Lila is upset and anxious about test taking, and her parents are concerned and frustrated.

So what’s the problem? Are memory issues or anxiety interfering?

Resolution: KSA evaluated Lila, not only regarding her cognitive and academic abilities, but also to look at anxiety factors and attention issues. One finding was that Lila’s anxiety was a result of her poor test performance, not the cause of it. Another was that Lila studied for tests exactly as the teachers had presented the material and so, when the teacher reworded the questions or asked for material in a different way, she came up short. She had “learned” the material in a rote manner and lacked a more comprehensive understanding to enable her to generalize the information in another format. Students with such difficulties often need another way to study; just going over the same material again and again doesn’t work for them.

KSA helped Lila and her parents by:

  • Explaining Lila’s learning style to her and her parents.
  • Providing a “coach” to work with her on modifying her approach to studying.
  • Counseling Lila’s parents to monitor Lila’s anxiety to be sure it didn’t remain a concern once her academic problems were successfully addressed.