It is rare to find a child or teen who doesn’t experience some kind of performance anxiety related to test-taking. When we see our child getting stomach aches or headaches on test days, though, we naturally want to know how to prevent test anxiety.

Many things can contribute to test anxiety:

  • Lack of preparation
  • Poor performance on previous exams
  • Being overly concerned with grades
  • Fear of parental disapproval
  • Perfectionism

While it’s not possible to remove all testing from your child’s academic career, it is possible to help him or her develop coping strategies for test days. Time4Learning also offers an afterschool online education program that can support and enhance the academic areas where a student is struggling.

General Strategies to Reduce Test Anxiety

The good news is that there are things you can teach and practice with your child or teen at home that may help them overcome their fears about taking tests. These strategies address some of the physical, emotional, and cognitive worries related to test-taking.

Tips to reduce test anxiety:

  • Ensure your child is getting enough sleep. Lack of sufficient rest can be a breeding ground for all kinds of anxieties.
  • Talk it out. Just the act of speaking their anxiety aloud can be enough to help some kids work through their misgivings about an upcoming test. Listen to your child’s fears without judgment and without telling them how they should feel.
  • Teach breathing exercises that students can use during test time. Slow breathing triggers a natural relaxation response in the body.
  • Model positive thinking. Let your child see you regularly express positive thoughts about upcoming stressors in your own life.
  • Remind your child that test grades aren’t a final measure of success. Make sure your child understands that the goal is to do their best, not have a perfect test score.
  • Create a pretest routine. Pay attention to what works for you every time you prepare for tests. Replicating this each time will help you beat exam anxiety.
  • Study early. Studying days, or even weeks, before a test will allow students to identify areas they have trouble with early on. Doing so will give them plenty of time to ask questions, practice, and gain a better understanding of a particular concept which, in turn, will improve their confidence and help reduce their test taking anxiety.
  • Study in an environment similar to the test. If possible, study in the same type of environment in which the test will be administered. For example, if your child will be taking a test in a large classroom with other students, have him or her study at a library so that they can get accustomed to the sights and sounds of that environment.

How to Reduce Test Anxiety in Elementary Students

Anxiety about tests can begin as early as kindergarten. Some children are more susceptible than others to fear of failure. The chief thing you can do to help your elementary student is to not put too much emphasis on test scores. Explain to your child that schools use tests as a way to get a picture of how much students are learning. Tests aren’t the final goal–learning is!

Elementary students, in particular, often get anxious about math tests. Math anxiety can affect a child’s enjoyment of math, as well as their confidence about math performance.  At this grade level, games are a powerful antidote to apprehension about math.

Time4MathFacts is a fun, motivational, and stress-free environment for mastering addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. Students who achieve a certain level of automaticity with math facts (the ability to pull math facts from their memory without conscious effort or attention) can significantly reduce their feelings of math anxiety.

Ways to Reduce Test Anxiety in Middle School Students

Because your middle schooler may not feel comfortable sharing their worries about testing, it’s important to watch for non-verbal signs of test anxiety at this age. Watch for any of these warning signs on test days:

  • complaints of head pain or stomach ache
  • irritability and moodiness
  • expressions of feeling like a failure
  • trouble concentrating
  • irrational explanations for not wanting to attend school

If you observe any of these signals in your pre-teen, start a conversation with him or her right away. Even naming their worries out loud can go a long way toward reducing their apprehension. As you talk with them about how to beat exam anxiety, emphasize the importance of preparation. Explain to your child that there are tools that can help them prepare for tests.

Time4Learning offers a multimedia middle school learning program that can serve as a tutorial for specific concepts. Seeing an animated explanation of the Pythagorean Theorem or completing an interactive activity related to speed and velocity can help cement those facts in a student’s mind. Once they can visualize a problem they’ve been struggling with, much of the anxiety associated with it dissolves.

Reducing Test Anxiety for High School Students

High school is a period of intense focus on testing. In addition to the tests in their academic subjects, many high schoolers will take the PSAT, SAT, or ACT during their high school career. Some states even require students to receive minimum scores on standardized tests to qualify for graduation. There is a lot of pressure on high schoolers related to testing.

Parents can be a supportive partner during this academic period. In addition to ensuring your teen is maintaining a healthy lifestyle (getting enough sleep and eating well), you can teach him or her test taking strategies that reduce anxiety such as:

  • Learning how to study efficiently and establish a study routine
  • Learning how to replace “cramming” with consistent studying over time
  • Practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation
  • Focusing on positive self talk before and during exams
  • Finding out everything possible about the test ahead of time to prevent surprises
  • Understanding what accommodations are available for tests and taking advantage of them if needed
  • Reminding them that test outcomes are not a sign of “success” or “failure” but rather a tool to point out areas where improvement is needed

Time4Learning can be another supportive partner for your high schooler. We offer an engaging online high school curriculum for after schoolers that presents standards-based exercises in a fun, multimedia format. Monthly subscribers receive access to up to four subject areas such as geometry, English, chemistry, and U.S. history. Students can use Time4Learning to review concepts and areas where they feel they are weak in order to better prepare for traditional and standardized tests. It’s like having a private tutor that they can access anytime and anywhere!

It’s true that kids and teens will always feel apprehensive about tests. But as with most challenges in life, preparation is key. Time4Learning, used as an online enrichment program, can be an important tool in your test-prep toolbox. Students in grades K-12 can use it right from the comfort of home for subject-specific reinforcement and remediation.

Using the Time4Learning online lesson plans, parents can select lessons and activities that students need additional help with or that align with what they are currently studying in school.  Either way, Time4Learning has the potential to be a welcome partner in helping your student build confidence in their test-taking abilities.

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