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Test Anxiety Season: How to Survive

Janelle Cox


Students across the nation are currently embarking on testing season. Whether it be standardized tests, or spring exams, these weeks are filled with test anxiety for both students and teachers.

Among these students, many come from broken homes or lack adult support. They must put themselves to bed at night, study on their own, make themselves breakfast, or some may have no breakfast at all. All of this factors, coiled in with the stress of spring testing, creates one stressed-out child.

Years ago during test taking, students were expected to sit for hours with no breaks. It wasn’t until recent research that we have found out that human are not wired to sit for long periods of time. Traditional classrooms expected students to sit for an exam until it was completed with little to no breaks. Today, we are now discovering that students learn best with brain breaks throughout the day. What we know now, can make a huge difference in the way students learn in the future.

So how can we minimize the stress level while maximizing the scores? Here are a few ways to prepare our students emotionally and relieve dreaded test anxiety.

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Brain Breaks

It has been scientifically proven that brain breaks improve concentration and stress level. This strategy is essential during test-prep as well as during testing. A brain break is a quick (1-5 minutes) kinesthetic break that students need every 25-30 minutes. Teachers should also participate because the benefits are just as good for them. Here is a great example of a brain break to use during testing that will help increase blood flow to the brain.

Brain Button

  • Create a “U” shape with your right thumb and index finger. Place it on the center of your chest under your collarbone. Take your other hand and place it over your navel. Press and pulse these points for 2 minutes.

Any kinesthetic activity will help. Some other ideas are chair aerobatics, a three-minute dance party, jumping jacks, taking deep breaths or sky writing.

Writing About Worry

Researchers from the National Science Foundation have found that students who were given at least ten minutes to write out their feelings of anxiety before a test improved their test score by nearly one grade. By writing out their feelings, students were able to free up their brain power that was needed to take the test.

Further research shows that writing helps regulate worries, giving students the opportunity to create more space in their working memory. If you’re looking to ease stress the weeks before a test, have students write a few times each week, which will help decrease stress levels. Or, have students write down their fears and test anxieties for ten minutes right before the big exam.

Stimulate Creative Thinking

When reviewing for a test, create a connection and relationship to the material that is going to be tested. To ease students’ fear of not remembering important information that are in passages, have them relate the material to something that they already know. For example, if students are reading a persuasive essay on the owner of the Hershey candy bar, have them think of the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Unrealistically High Expectations

Many students stress during testing season because they strive to be a perfectionistic or have unrealistically high expectations. It is not uncommon for students to say, “I need to get an A on this exam.” The fear of not being able to receive that “A” can lead to a panic attack, or even destructive behavior and depression. Teach students to approach testing time with an attitude of optimism. Instead of saying, “I must get an A on this exam,” teach them to say, “I am prepared, and I will do my best on this exam.” This will help raise their confidence and ease their stress level.

Testing time is stressful, no matter how you look at it. Besides the tips above, students and teachers should eat healthy, exercise, and get a lot of sleep. This, accompanied with a few relaxation techniques and a little personal time will help individuals feel refreshed and relaxed.

How do you survive during testing season? Do you have any tips you would like to share? Feel free to leave a comment below. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators

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