Some 10 to 40 percent of students experience test anxiety, which causes them to perform poorly. They can’t think clearly and they can’t judge things as distinctly as they would be able to if they were not so anxious. Test-taking anxiety is not only frustrating for students, but it can also be linked to learning issues.
As a parent, there are ways you can help your child to overcome test anxiety. Here are our top tips you can use to help your child cope.
Tips for Text Anxiety for Elementary Students
Test anxiety may affect your child differently, depending on their age and grade level. It’s often easier to have open conversations with your child about what they are experiencing if you start early and continue to check in with them as they move on from one grade to the next. These tips for test anxiety for elementary students should help.
- Ask your child why they are feeling anxious about the test.
- Find out the testing schedule.
- Practice with your child on spelling words, reading and math problems to help them feel comfortable about their abilities.
- Find out the format for the testing. Will it be multiple choice, question-and-answer or fill-in-the-blank?
- Review in-class and homework assignments with your child and give them input and help as needed.
- Offer encouragement to your child every day.
- Discuss accommodations with your child. If they have an IEP or 504 plan, help your child understand what that means and that it’s a way to make sure that they are getting the support they need to succeed.
- Help your child prepare to perform their best with rest, positive affirmations and a protein-rich breakfast.
- Check in with your child after tests. Even if your child is still frustrated, talk through how they are feeling and discuss what you can work on together to help with the testing anxiety.
- Continue to remind your child that the test score or evaluation does not reflect on who they are or what they can accomplish. Consider having a consultation with your kid’s teacher to better understand and help your child with test taking. To learn more, check out this podcast from Good Inside with Dr. Becky.
Middle School Students
When your child enters middle school, they may face more severe test anxiety. The expectations and requirements for middle school students are greater, which may pressure your child to succeed. Here are a few tips for test anxiety for middle school students.
- It’s even more important to talk with your child about their test anxiety.
- Get practice tests.
- Create a homework and study schedule with your child when school starts and check in to make sure it’s current.
- Break down with your child what may be causing their anxiety. Are they worried about failure? Anxious over timed tests? Knowing what the obstacle is for your kid can help them overcome it.
- Check in with your child on what they are learning every day.
- Teach your child how to take notes and encourage them to take notes. Not sure where to start? Consider these classes to help your kid dive into the art of note-taking.
- Regularly check in with your child to support their note-taking skills.
- Discuss any accommodations for their IEP or 504 plan with your child. Reiterate why they are important and check in to make sure the accommodations are being followed.
- Validate your child’s feelings about test-taking.
- Encourage your child to ask questions if there are concepts or instructions they don’t understand.
- Check in with your child before and after the test to see how they are doing, with encouragement, praise and talk about how to improve for next time.
Middle school can be such a change for your child. It’s natural and normal that they are feeling anxious about tests. Remind them it’s ok to feel frustrated and upset as they navigate the new requirements of middle school.
High School Students
High school presents even more stress for your child. Besides the demands of school, they may be involved in extracurricular activities like jobs, volunteering, social clubs and sports. They may face additional pressures and demands from their social life. School responsibilities become more intense, with everyone reminding them about the consequences if they don’t keep up.
Is it a surprise that your child is facing test anxiety and even anxiety in general? Here are some tips for test anxiety for high school students.
- Continue to talk with your teen about test anxiety.
- Help your teen figure out how they study best. Do they need to listen to music? Or is silence best? Can they concentrate better in their room or while sitting at the kitchen table?
- Encourage your teen to be a part of a study group if it is helpful to their learning style.
- Discuss how stress can be a good thing if it’s not overwhelming.
- Get practice tests so they can gain confidence for testing on assessments, tests and upcoming AP and SAT exams.
- Check in with your teen regularly to track their understanding of the material they’re learning.
- Encourage your teen to ask questions and take the initiative to find answers, with an increasing emphasis on research online and in the library. Learn more.
- Discuss their IEP and 504 plan, with encouragement on self-advocacy to ensure they are getting the accommodations they need.
- Let them know that they are not alone with their test anxiety.
- Check in to make sure homework is done and activities are complete.
Your child’s learning and study habits will probably evolve through their years of school. Of course, you’ve probably been asking them about homework, study, testing and learning for years. As teenagers, they may be more ready to take the lead on what, how, where and why they are learning as they start to think about life after high school.
Activities To Help With Test Anxiety
Test anxiety happens every day for your kids. It’s not something that you can avoid altogether, but you can teach your child some quick, easy and positive activities for test anxiety. Here are a few tips.
- Talk with your child about test anxiety. Discuss what it is and why it makes them feel sick, confused and helpless. It may help to identify how anxiety can manifest physically in the body. This can include sweating, nausea, and a racing heart. Keeping a journal can help your kid identify when this is happening and work together to overcome it.
- Explore mindfulness exercises with your child. Find out which exercises are most effective. Check out these classes on mindfulness.
- Read The Big Test with your child and discuss the tips in the book. (This is particularly effective with elementary-age students.)
- Practice breathing and visualization exercises with your child.
- Keep brain-teasers and puzzles on hand to help your child enhance their thinking skills.
- Listening to an audio story or podcast may help your child learn resources to calm down during times of stress. Check out this article.
There’s no single, one-shot fix for test anxiety. It’s a process that may not always be the same. Your child may experience worsening anxiety related to certain topics or requirements. Maybe other stresses in their lives are just heightening their test anxiety. For more on resources, check out Outschool.
Resources Available for Test Anxiety
For more tips, check out the Outschool blog Tricks to Try When Your Child Is Tired of Distance Learning.