25. February 2016 10:26
With the intense focus on standardized testing, it is no wonder that many students become anxious during testing season. But this anxiety can manifest in ways that are detrimental to learning. Some students may lose confidence in their abilities; some may feel sick; and some may even try to avoid tests and school. So how can we help students feel calmer about tests?
- Teach study skills and test-taking strategies.
Let students know that it is okay to take their time when reading chapters or answering questions. Show them how to work through tough multiple-choice questions by eliminating incorrect answers. Remind them that they can skip a question and come back to it if they get stuck.
Let students know that they aren’t alone.
If students think they are the only one worried, they may keep their concerns quiet. They may feel embarrassed and won’t ask for help. Make your classroom a safe place to discuss what students are worried about and how to overcome these worries.
Don’t focus on the negative aspects of tests.
Very rarely will a student exclaim their love of tests, but they are quick to talk about how boring or hard tests are going to be. When teachers and parents agree, even by saying “Yes, but…,”students will latch onto the negativity. Turn the focus of the conversation around. Let them know that tests can help them discover what they know well and how much they have learned.
Avoid “should” statements.
Some students may not study much, but others may study a few hours every night before a test. When those who study a lot are told that they “should” study more, they may become discouraged or they may study even more, losing the time they need to relax or sleep. If a student is worried about a test and is told that they “shouldn’t” be worried, they may think that something is wrong with them because they are worried.
Encourage students to relax.
Negative thoughts can make you tense, but positive thoughts can help you relax. If students start focusing on how terrible an upcoming test will be, direct their focus to a time they did will on a test or to a lesson or activity that they enjoyed. Other methods that help students relax include listening to music, developing a routine, breathing deeply, and moving around to loosen tense muscles.
Share your experience with these or other methods below. And discover more ways to reduce test anxiety and improve test-taking skills in How to Do Your Best on Every Test or in the opening sections of our Show What You Know® on the Common Core and STAAR books.