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Test Preparation,

De-Stress the Test

While students can't make the standardized test disappear, here's how you can help your students make the pre-test anxiety vanish.

image:Someone taking a multiple choice test.

The image:Check markDos & image:X-markDon’ts to De-stress the Test

image:Someone taking a multiple choice test.
Photo by Alberto G. / Some rights reserved

Spring is in the air, and standardized tests are popping up on screens and desks everywhere. Let’s be honest though; testing isn’t just accompanied by April showers these days. It’s a year round occurrence, and one that’s apt to cause more than its fair share of angst in our students. While we work tirelessly to prepare our classes for the content of these tests, the actual taking of them is all on the shoulders of the students and needs some preparatory consideration too.

When the angst is lessened, the intricacies of algorithms, elements, and onomatopoeias can take the forefront. Doing our best to ensure students are mentally and physically prepared for testing days can help to de-stress what has become a high-stakes environment. With these testing dos and don’ts, your students will be geared up and ready to go.

The image:Check markDos and image:X-markDon’ts BEFORE Testing

As teachers, we do have direct control over some factors of test preparation. Make the most of them! For the rest, all we can do is inform parents and students of best practices and strategies and offer our support.

Content Preparation
  • Utilize flashcards, packets, and/or study booklets throughout the year to keep content covered accessible and fresh.
  • Assign a review packet the day before the test.
  • Offer some big idea activity pages or study sheets for students that are interested in additional practice in the days and weeks leading up to testing. Sometimes just knowing they can pick up such an option eases the nerves.
  • Cram a month of new material into the days before the test. If you weren’t able to cover it, don’t expect students to magically absorb it and perform well with any of the content.
Physical Preparation
  • A healthy breakfast with lasting brain fuel (e.g., eggs, oatmeal, yogurt) to sustain mind and body throughout the test.
  • A sugar-based cereal or any type of energy drink is a recipe for a mid-test mind crash
  • A low-key evening involving a moderate amount of physical activity and a good night’s sleep will recharge and refresh the mind.
  • A late night of cramming or gaming won’t have students firing on all cylinders come test time.
  • Have a screen-free morning to keep the mind settled and focused on the task at hand.
  • Overstimulate prior to testing with games or videos and enter testing with a tired brain.

The image:Check markDos and image:X-markDon’ts DURING Testing

When testing starts, our ability to step in and offer support stops. Providing students with strategies and techniques to get them through the tough spots can lessen any testing anxiety that may occur.

Content Stressors
  • Have and practice a game plan for getting stuck. If you don’t know it, mark it and skip it. If time allows, return and complete. Most online tests will return students to skipped questions. For bubble tests, lightly shade a best guess and record the number on provided scrap paper or a note page in the testing booklet.
  • Spend too much time on any one question or leave it blank (throwing off numbering on a bubble test can induce panic mode). Shutting down over a single unknown answer can throw off the rest of the test.
Mental Stressors
  • Take a few deep breaths when you start to feel anxious or overwhelmed. For older students, sharing a breathing technique like the 4-count inhale, quick 7-count hold, and 3-count exhale described by Griffon Prep1 will put the focus on the count and allow the mind to reboot.
  • Let heightened nerves take over your mindset.
  • Have a couple of go-to options for a quick mental break or recharge. Whether it’s tilting your head back to stare at the ceiling for a moment, counting to or from 10, or pencil down for a quick hand massage, give your mind a chance to reboot.
  • Run out of mental steam before reaching the end of the test.

A lot of hard work and preparation occurs prior to testing. Don’t let stress or anxiety overshadow the knowledge students have gained. By following these simple dos and don’ts, students can leave the stressors at the door and put the spotlight on learning.

If you enjoyed the thoughts and ideas shared here, check out the trainings and tools (for teachers and for families) that we offer.

Additional Resources & Works Cited

1. Griffon Prep Breathing


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