How to Manage Test-Taking Anxiety

Our response to a question via Twitter on how to manage test-taking anxiety. Read our tips!

By Momentous Institute | Dec 02, 2015
Manage Test Anxiety

We received this comment via Twitter the other day:

 
Does @momentous have any tips/solutions for students that experiences test anxiety? http://bit.ly/1MzLaGe . We'd love to know/share. (@TurnAndTalks)
 
We promised that we’d write up our answer here on our blog. Do you have a question that you’d love for us to address? Feel free to comment on this post or tag us on social media and we’ll try our best to share our tips and strategies.
 
Now, how to manage test-taking anxiety.
 
A key factor that contributes to test anxiety for kids is not knowing what’s going to happen. Adults have the ability to see the bigger picture and place things in context, and kids often are only able to focus on what’s happening at that particular moment. So something like standardized tests might seem like the biggest thing in the entire world to a fourth-grader. We circled up with a few people on our staff, a teacher and two therapists, and here was some of their advice.
 
Ask kids what they are worried about.
 
You might be surprised to find out that their anxiety isn’t what you thought it was. Our teacher shared that she thought her students were worried about getting answers wrong, but instead she found out that they were more concerned with running out of time. Once she knew that, she was able to talk about pacing and skipping questions and coming back to them, rather than spending time talking about the wrong concern.
 
Prepare, prepare, prepare

 
This one seems obvious – of course you prepare your kids! But it’s one thing to talk about what to expect, and something else to really show your kids and prepare them. Try lining up their desks in the way they’ll be lined up for the test. Have them sit in that position while you do a lesson not related to the test (like a writing assignment, or free reading time.) This allows them to familiarize with the room setup, so that on the day of the test, they’re not concerning themselves with a test and a new seating arrangement. Our teacher shared that when she had them in their practice seats, one student was distracted by the class pet moving around in his cage. It hadn’t occurred to her that the pet would be a distraction, but she was grateful that they practiced, so that when the test came, she could temporarily loan the pet out to another class in the school.
 
Visualize
 
Talk the kids through the day. Start with what it will be like when they walk in the room. Talk through having them take a seat at their desk. See if they can take a moment to close their eyes and center themselves. Then talk them through the process of starting the test. What happens when you get to a question that you don’t know the answer to? Can you skip it and come back to it?
 
Practice self-regulation early and often
 
Kids who have the ability to self-regulate are much more likely to call upon their strategies when the time comes. Starting at the beginning of the year (or now – it’s never too late!), give kids the tools they need to calm themselves down. These can include breathing or movement. Here are a ton of different breathing strategies that we know and love.
 
There’s no way to eliminate all anxiety – and a little bit of anxiety is good for kids – but these strategies should help kids channel that anxiety, rather than letting it take control.
 
We hope this helps! If you have anything to add, please leave it in the comments!
 
 
Plus – here are two posts you might have missed that can help kids with anxiety-inducing experiences.
Tell Me a Story
 
An Airplane Ride

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