Managing Standardized Test Stress


Managing Standardized Test Stress

By Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder, Psy.D. for

The start of spring brings with it many things to which to look forward. The warmer weather means more time for outside activities and fun in the sun. Spring also signifies however, the season of standardized testing for kids of all ages. Whether your child will soon take state achievement tests such as the ELA for elementary kids in New York state, or national exams such as the ACT and/or SAT for college bound high schoolers, the associated stress can be intense and at times overwhelming. Look, it’s a plain fact that some people are better test takers than others. Test anxiety however, can affect even the most confident and calmest of kids. It certainly affects their parents.



What follows are a few quick tips to help your kids keep calm, cool, and collected before, during and after they face a standardized exam.

1. Don’t let him see you sweat. Your kids look to you to model appropriate behaviors. Anxiety can beget anxiety. If you present as a nervous Nelly, the frenetic energy you create can cause him unwanted stress and anxiety.


2. Talking it through can be calming. While you don’t want to cause undue alarm in your child, avoiding the topic entirely is not always the best idea. A quick check in may be invaluable for her. Keep your question short and simple. You can check in for example by making a short fact based statement such as “The test is next week.” How your child responds will give you a clue about how she is feeling. A response laden with agitation, annoyance, or even anger can be a red flag that she is feeling stressed and anxious. An easy dismissive response such as a calm and carefree “I know” often suggests that she is doing fine. If your offspring grabs onto your query as an opportunity to talk, just listen. Often she is not looking for answers, just a chance to express her thoughts, feelings, worries, and woes out loud. This exercise can be quite helpful in releasing anxiety, but only when it come naturally without prompting from parents. Avoid loaded questions such as “How are you feeling about the test?”

3. When it comes to standardized tests, practice can relieve pressure. If your child is scheduled to take a well distributed test such as the SAT or ACT, taking practice tests under ‘test like’ conditions (e.g. in a quiet room and timing the sections) can help ease anxiety during the testing session. For many kids, anxiety stems from the stress of the situation or the process, not the content or what’s actually on the test itself.


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This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission.
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