Many students experience test anxiety, especially on standardized exams or assessments that affect their promotion to the next grade. As a result, it’s important for students to develop test-taking skills since they're used throughout primary and secondary school, as well as into college and beyond. If your elementary school student has test anxiety, here are four ways to help him or her cope:
1. Know the assessment(s)
First, find out what exam your student is anxious about. There are many different kinds: unit tests in a specific subject, mid-year assessments, end-of-year exams, and more. Some tests take all week – with a special testing schedule – while others may be a few hours or may fit within a single class period. Is the format multiple-choice or short answer/essay? Will students use computers or test by hand? You’ll want to know the purpose of the exam and its format – and depending on that information, you’ll be able to discuss with your child an appropriate attitude toward it and how much significance it should have in his or her life. These tips to help you analyze practice test results may help ease some test anxiety.
2. Communicate with your student’s teacher
Your child’s teacher can tell you more about the test, and you’ll be able to discuss with him or her how students are preparing for it at school, as well as anything helpful that you can do with your child at home. Ask the teacher for any resources or tactics that might be helpful for the specific exam, as these can help to lower your elementary school student’s text anxiety. He or she may refer you to someone within the school who has more or different information, such as the principal. In any case, communication with your student’s teacher should help you better understand the test, as well as what your child is doing in school to get ready for it.
3. Practice test-taking skills at home
Even though your home is a different environment than your student’s school, discuss and practice test-taking skills there. Depending on the age of your child, you may want to talk about filling in bubbles, carefully reading directions, eliminating answers, skipping and returning to questions, and double-checking your responses. You may also want to talk about time management throughout an exam so that your student doesn’t feel rushed. When you speak with your child’s teacher about the test, ensure that what you are doing at home works and is helpful for the exam in order to best lower test anxiety. You may also want to consider a test prep tutor who can help reassure your child.
4. Encourage your child to eat and sleep well during exam week
On test days, make sure your child eats and sleeps well. Balanced meals and a good night’s sleep will help to ensure that he or she has the necessary brain energy to do well during the day. If the exam spans several days, teachers often give little or no homework during this time. In that case, plan after-school relaxation time for your student. A schedule of healthy eating, sleeping, and winding down should help your elementary school student cope with test anxiety. These tips may help your child mentally prepare for test day.
Even though many assessments are high-stakes, don’t forget to emphasize learning for learning’s sake. Celebrate your child for what he or she has learned and done well in throughout the year. Even when not directly linked to test-taking, these moments of success may help your student feel better about school and about taking important assessments.