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February 27, 2018

Test Anxiety Strategies for Students During Testing Season

Stress Relief Ideas for Students: Tips to Help Students Manage Test Anxiety

As a classroom teacher, I’ve seen it all during testing season. Students will go to extremes to avoid the dreaded standardized tests– hiding under tables and in coat closets, going on extended bathroom visits and hallway explorations, and the most panic-inducing for a teacher, a 5 minute finish!

We work so hard all year to prepare our students using engaging learning activities. We meet in small groups, plan projects and take them on field trips. We encourage collaboration, synthesis and critical thinking. Yet as the emphasis in education shifts to more creative and innovative teaching and learning practices, the standardized testing system remains the same. For many students, spending hours on a multiple choice test is anxiety inducing. Like the hide-under-the-table-to-avoid-the-entire-thing kind of anxiety.

So how can you help your students manage the inevitable stress of testing season and stay cool under pressure? Here a few of my 3 favorite test anxiety strategies to try in your classroom:

  1. Get Real— Talk with your students about what test anxiety is and how it affects their body. Make connections to performance anxiety in other areas of interest, like singing in front of a crowd or stepping up to the plate to bat. Invite students to write about a time they felt nervous before an important event and discuss the outcome.
  2. Values— Students with test anxiety are often focused on what could go wrong– all of the mistakes they could make, and the consequences of a low score. Help shift the focus to the positive! Prior to testing, ask students to think of something they value and why it matters to them. Studies have shown that this “values affirmation” exercise actually increased test scores, in some cases by more than 40%. Unloading negative thoughts and focusing on the positive allows students to focus their cognitive energy on solving problems on the test.
  3. Relax— Empower students with some simple strategies for reducing test anxiety:

Including some of these anxiety reducing activities along with your test prep this season will help beat stress and improve students ability to perform!

Are you looking for some additional ways to create balance and manage stress in your life and some simple first-steps to bring Mindfulness into your classroom, too? Watch our free, on-demand webinar, Mindfulness for Teachers where we will focus on the benefits of Mindfulness, and share some practical strategies to improve you and your students’ focus and well-being. There is no time like the present to start living more mindfully!

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