sealPurdue Education and Careers Briefs

April 1999

Support from mom and dad lessens test anxiety

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Parents can quell test anxiety in their school-aged children by recognizing the problem and reinforcing realistic expectations.

"Anxious behavior about test-taking is different in every student, but parents can help by balancing the importance of preparation against the reality that a particular exam is not the only measure by which a grade is earned," says Scott Vrana, associate professor of psychological sciences and director of the Purdue University Anxiety Clinic.

Vrana says that anxiety is a natural part of life.

"A student who doesn't experience some level of anxiety about a test has no motivation to do well," he says. "Anxiety only becomes a problem when it interferes with performance -- either by hindering the ability to prepare or by preventing the student from focusing in the testing situation."

There are three components of test anxiety: The behavioral component will manifest itself in avoidance of the task or poor preparation for it, while the physiological response can range from sweaty palms to an increased heart rate, or even difficulty in breathing. The cognitive component results from being so worried about the outcome that the child can't concentrate on the test itself.

Vrana says parents should offer reassurance and counter any irrational worries with rational thoughts based on other school tasks the child does well. And he warns that this can become more challenging as a child grows older and learns to worry in more elaborate ways.

"But if the anxiety is based on repeated failures, then it's time to look at preparation and ask if it's adequate," Vrana says. "As students get older they become more responsible for their own time, and poor preparation is often a factor. At the college level, it's not uncommon to have students fail exams for the first time in their lives because no one is reminding them to study."

The Purdue Anxiety Clinic specializes in the treatment of a variety of anxiety disorders. Clinic therapists, who are advanced graduate students working toward Ph.D.s in clinical psychology, will see an average of four students a year for test anxiety. But Vrana says the low number does not accurately reflect the problem.

"Like most universities, Purdue has a variety of resources for students who are struggling with academic performance issues," he says. "Many times a stress management or life skills seminar will be all that's necessary to overcome test anxiety. But even if they do end up visiting the clinic, it's fairly simple to treat in terms of the coping skills we teach. We've been highly successful in helping students deal with the problem."

CONTACT: Vrana, (765) 494-0782;

Purdue branches out with wood products tech major

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue University is taking steps to fill the high demand for professionals in the wood products industry with the creation of a new major -- wood products manufacturing technology.

"Secondary wood production companies that generate products such as cabinets and furniture need people who know how to turn a piece of lumber into finished goods ready for the sales floor," says Rado Gazo, assistant professor in Purdue's Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. "So graduates will find excellent opportunities for industrial engineering, product and process design, product development and marketing, management, and related careers in this field."

Graduates can also help in conservation efforts. "Our nation will continue to make products from wood, but our graduates can make sure it's done efficiently and with an environmental approach," says W.L. Mills Jr., associate professor of forestry and adviser for the new major.

Job placement already is greater than 90 percent for Purdue forestry majors who decide to enter the wood products industry, Gazo says. Since Purdue began offering the wood products manufacturing technology major in the fall of 1998, one student transferred enough credits to graduate with the major in December. He received a handful of strong job offers and accepted a position with a salary in the mid-40s.

The new major is a joint program between Purdue's Schools of Agriculture and Technology. The plan of study involves courses in math and science, forestry and natural resources, and industrial technology. The major also requires the completion of specialization courses, in which students work with a professor to create a focus for themselves, such as marketing, human resources, business/finance, industrial engineering, or product design.

CONTACTS:Gazo, (765) 494-3634; e-mail:; Mills, (765) 494-3575;

'ER' fans can earn biology credit at Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The NBC medical drama "ER" will become a science lab at Purdue University this summer.

Edward Simon, a biology professor in the School of Science, decided to base a class on the show after being regularly bombarded with questions from his students following each new episode. "The Biology of ER" will be offered for one semester hour of credit for the first time in May.

"'ER' raises questions about AIDS in the workplace, the ethics of drug trials, medical economics and euthanasia," Simon explains. "There is never a shortage of issues to research further and discuss in greater detail."

Students will view a specific episode and then prepare questions and comments on the medical and biological aspects of the program for use in class the following day.

CONTACT: Simon, (765) 494-4991;

Compiled by Sharon Bowker, (765) 494-2077; Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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