Feeling anxious before a big test is pretty natural, but you may be able to help students learn to work through feelings of anxiety in a healthy way. Students who seem nervous or upset when taking exams or standardized tests may benefit from practicing the following tips for lessening testing anxiety.
Table of Contents
- 3 Ways to Help Students Prepare for Testing Season
- 3 Ideas to Help Students Relieve Testing Anxiety
3 Ways to Help Students Prepare for Testing Season
These three preparation steps can make a huge difference to students feeling anxious about their potential performance on an upcoming test. Even confident students will feel more comfortable and relaxed if you take the time to help them prepare.
1. Review the Material as Much as Possible
Every educator knows one of the keys to success on a test is reviewing the material. It might not be possible in the case of standardized testing to thoroughly review every concept, but thoughtful and creative reviews of the important ones can help remove some of the anxiety students are feeling.
Make Reviewing a Game
Gamification, or turning concepts and learning objectives into a game, is a popular way for educators to make reviews for a test more engaging. Students benefit from the reinforcement of concepts and may also remember the information more vividly than they would have otherwise.
Students Teaching Students
Another review method that may help your students to feel more confident is by having them review and teach each other. Assign groups a concept or task to teach the rest of the class, or have individual students review and then present a concept to a small group. The method depends entirely on what would work best for them. One of the best ways to help students anchor key concepts is by having them teach their peers.
2. Practice Answering All Question Formats
Just like athletes practice for a big game by running drills, students should practice for a test by completing practice tests. This includes more than just learning the concepts. Practicing for a test should also include learning about how the questions and answers should be structured.
Whether they’re going to be taking a multiple choice standardized exam or a one-question essay test, students will feel less anxious if they know what to expect. Give your students a chance to practice with all the different question formats and go over the answering strategies and expectations. Try some of these anchor charts to help prepare students for testing days.
3. Emphasize the Value of Progress
Of course, the stakes are high when it comes to students and test taking (especially standardized tests). However, anxious students may benefit from a focus on progress rather than achieving a specific score. Success doesn’t have to mean getting all the answers right. For students with testing anxiety, feeling pressured to get all the answers right may result in a lower overall score.
You may want to start by having an individual conversation with students who struggle with testing anxiety to review their strengths and where you hope they can strive to see progress. Depending on the student, you may consider creating a reward for progressing in a certain area or even schedule another one-on-one conversation post-test to debrief. Helping students learn how to talk about their progress, goals, and evaluating their performance can make it easier for them to work through testing anxiety on their own in the future.
3 Ideas to Help Students Relieve Testing Anxiety
When you’ve done all the prep and discussed the testing strategies, your students may need these three tips to help prepare and guide them through test day. Whether they are facing multiple hours of standardized testing or a shorter, more manageable test, feelings of anxiety can be lessened by following these three tips.
Teach Positive Self-Talk
Students who experience testing anxiety may benefit from practicing positive affirmations. These internal affirmations are a positive way to increase confidence when anxious feelings creep up.
By repeating positive phrases like “I am calm and prepared” in their minds, students can block the negative self-talk that might otherwise have clouded their thoughts.
Affirmations for before and during tests should emphasize:
- Deep breaths
- Do your best
- Trust yourself
Making Healthy Choices Before Big Tests
Everyone knows that a healthy meal and enough sleep are important, but reminding your students before a big test helps to reinforce these habits. You might provide a list of “brain foods” to eat before taking tests or show students this video to help them remember the importance of fueling their bodies before test days.
Remember that you, as the educator, can set a good example by eating healthy foods and caring for yourself before testing days. It’s a long day for you, too! Making healthy choices with your students can make the test preparation feel like a team effort.
Deep, Slow Breathing Exercises
Preparing for a test is part of the equation, but remaining calm and focused before and during the test is equally important. Students who become anxious before and during testing may benefit from closing their eyes and taking slow, deep breaths.
If you have multiple anxiety-prone students in your class or want to help all your students feel calm and collected, consider leading the class with a few simple breathing exercises before a test.
How do you help your students prepare for the testing season? Let us know in the comments!