While tests are an effective way of tracking progress and can help kids identify academic areas that they need to work on, they can also be a huge source of anxiety. Tests are an inevitable part of school life and virtually every child in the country has to take them.
Sometimes, students can develop a condition commonly referred to as test anxiety. Kids with test anxiety tend to worry intensely about upcoming tests, often preparing endlessly but then finding themselves unable to think straight once they sit down to take the test itself.
Over 10 million children in North America are affected by test anxiety, according to the American Test Anxieties Association. Whilst a dose of anxiety is natural for most people when faced with an important milestone in their education, for some students it can be crippling and be severely detrimental to their mental health.
If you’re a teacher hoping to help students manage their test anxiety, we’ve put together a few helpful tips to keep harmful worries at bay:
1. Recognize that stress can be a helpful and motivating feeling
Small and intermittent doses of stress can actually push students to do their best during testing season. Reminding students of this fact can help them to recognize that their feelings are natural and can be harnessed for good. For example, telling students that a racing heart is often a good sign that they are excited and ready to take on the test could fire them up to do well.
2. Keep an eye out for anxiety attacks
Whilst symptoms of mild to moderate anxiety such as jittery hands, excess sweating, and a racing heart are usually nothing to worry about, you should look out for signs of serious anxiety among students.
Symptoms of debilitating anxiety (or sometimes even a panic attack) include:
- Visible distress
- An inability to focus on the task at hand
These kinds of symptoms can, of course, impede a student’s ability to perform to the best of their abilities and you should attempt to make accommodations during the test. This could include letting them pause to sit in a room for a few minutes or to have a drink of water. Whilst there may be testing regulations in place, your school should have protocols in place to help struggling students.
3. Remind parents of the importance of sleep and exercise
Whilst kids tend to know intellectually that sleep and exercise will boost their brainpower, many are too preoccupied with reading and preparing for upcoming tests to bother going to bed early or slipping on their running shoes. To combat this problem, try reaching out to parents. They will be able to monitor their children’s behavior closely and can tell you if the student needs to work on improving their lifestyle.
4. Allow kids to get used to a testing environment
One of the most anxiety-inducing elements of testing is that it takes place in a silent room in which students have to adhere to a bunch of intimidating rules. Simulating a test environment, therefore, will help kids acclimatize to this unfamiliar scenario and will calm their nerves once the big day comes around. If you need any more convincing, this British article offers a deeper insight into how simulated testing can effectively prepare students to attain the best grades possible.
Once you have carried out your replica test, remember to ask students how they found it. If they felt a little anxious, reflecting on their experiences will prepare students to deal with similar feelings in the future.