These tips will help you to calm anxious kids before taking tests at school.
It’s no secret that many (but certainly not all!) schools overly stress state test scores – to a fault! The media does nothing to help the situation either. This is not a discussion to lay blame or debate effectiveness, but simply a post to help incorporate a few ideas to calm your student’s nerves as they do testing. This list tries to span tips for both teachers and parents so use what you need and pass over the rest!
I believe that comprehensive testing can be a good thing to help you establish a student’s baseline but it by no means should define that student or their abilities. Everyone has good and bad days and testing is no different! Emphasis should not be on getting a good score but on doing their best and being prepared!
10 Tips to Calm Anxious Test Takers:
1. Don’t make a big deal out of it. If your child is in a public or private school especially then chances are they already know all about state testing – they don’t need to be constantly reminded over and over and over and….you get the idea! Yes, you should always strive to do your best on tests but don’t beat them over the head with anxiety! Over reminding them just builds up more anxiety! They hear enough of it I can promise you that!
2. Good night’s sleep & a good breakfast. These points are seemingly obvious and are constantly included in lists like this so I won’t delve into it too much but make sure your child goes to bed on time and walks out in the morning with a good breakfast for their thinking fuel. It’s a good idea to have good hearty snacks during the school day available too.
3. Have the right supplies. I’ll admit – it’s been a while since I was in school and things have changed over the years, so I am frequently asking my children if they NEED anything at school or for their tests. The night before testing remind them to sharpen their pencils, have their erasers in their backpacks, etc so that they are prepared for the test(s). (unless of course they are doing computer based testing) Send extra supplies if they are concerned about running out or needing to resharpen pencils during the test.
4. Slip a note in their lunch box the day of their test! I don’t care how old or embarrassed my kids might temporarily be because “mommy left me a note in my lunch box” – they’ll get one anyways! Nothing mushy or gushy – just a note of encouragement that can be as simple as “Hope you’re having a great day!”. You can add in a silly picture or comic to make them smile and share with their friends.
5. Have a test taking “party”! Whether you head to the park for an extra evening out, or just do a movie and popcorn at home – celebrate the completion of finishing up those tests! Give your kids a pass on some of your normal routine that week. Do NOT base it on test scores but rather the accomplishment of completing their testing! After a long week of sitting and thinking they might appreciate the ability to be outdoors and run free!
6. DON’T over practice! Unless your child is taking a college entrance test or other post college testing (which they alone are responsible for anyway!) don’t make your child take countless practice tests! That’s what school is for! Ask them if they understand everything they’ve been learning and give guidance when needed but there’s no reason to drill them every night simply for a state test.
7. Take breaks & offer snacks! Kids need a mental break just like we do. Ensure they have enough downtime on testing day to chill out and send some extra healthy protein snacks to get them through the day!
8. Remind them that if they did their best it’s all that matters. Everyone is different and unique – some kids will do better on tests than others, that doesn’t mean that they themselves are better than others. A test does NOT define who you are OR what you know! If your child is particularly nervous about the test give them a pep talk and remind them these tests are simply a way of checking to see what they have learned over the school year, not a test to make them feel bad or inadequate.
9. Offer incentives. I’m not a fan of over incentivizing kids but when it comes to big tests I’m not opposed to offering a fun distraction in exchange for some hard effort! It doesn’t have to be fancy but something to break up the routine like a game night, extra recess, brain break or riddles, etc. Give them something to look forward to!
10. Ensure your students have good test taking skills. Remind your student not to spend all of their time on that one question they are stumped on. Simply skip the question and make sure to double check their answers and come back to the hard questions! Although the teacher cannot help answer a question on the test remind your child it’s OK to signal their teacher for help if they have a problem. Tell them if they get nervous to close their eyes for a moment and take a deep breath.