In each of our monthly newsletters, we’ll address a question or two submitted by our readers. Whether you’re a parent looking for information on how to help your child at home, or an educator looking for some advice, we can help!

Q: “My child says she gets nervous when taking tests at school. Could she have test anxiety? What can we do to help her?

A: Students are under a lot of pressure these days to perform, and not just on high-stakes testing. For students who struggle with memorization and/or attention concerns, test-taking can be extremely stressful or can provoke anxiety, because it relies on these very skills. It’s important to know that students with test anxiety may not only worry about their preparedness for a single test. Their stress or anxiety could quickly snowball into generalized fear about their overall success in school and their future success in life. Ultimately, these students can become overly self-critical and lose confidence in their abilities. Instead of feeling challenged by their potential success, they become fearful of failure, which could impact their performance when taking tests. If you suspect that your child worries too much about test-taking, you can help to reduce their anxiety by encouraging them to do the following:

1. Plan ahead – Make sure your child starts studying for the test in advance and understands what material the test will cover.

2. Discourage your child from “cramming” the night before – Studying at the last minute will most likely increase anxiety, which will interfere with clear thinking. Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep.

3. Take a few deep breaths

  • Close your eyes and concentrate on the air going in and out of your lungs.
  • Take deep breaths – fill your lungs.
  • Hold your breath and count to 5.
  • Exhale.

4. Tense and relax different muscle groups

5. Engage in positive self-talk – Think about a rational response to counter any negative thoughts (e.g., “I know I can do this!” instead of “I’m going to fail this test!”)

6. Remind your child to use good test-taking strategies

  • Read the directions carefully before beginning the test.
  • Ask the teacher to explain something that he or she doesn’t understand.
  • Look quickly at the entire test to see what types of questions are on it to determine how much time to spend on each question.
  • Mark questions that he or she doesn’t know the answer to, skip them, and go on.
  • Encourage your child to return to the skipped items when they finish the test and attempt them again.

7. After the test, encourage your child to take time to relax and reflect on what can be done differently next time.

  • Encourage them not to dwell too long on the outcome of the test. When possible, review corrections with your child.
  • Encourage your child to prepare for future tests, especially in subjects/classes where material builds on information learned in previous units.
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