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Test-Taking Tips for Anxious Students

Updated: Jan 29

Everyone wants to improve student performance on standardized tests, but, perhaps more importantly, educators should work on helping students to reduce anxiety with positive test-taking techniques. As educators, adopting modern, research-based strategies to reduce considerable student anxiety can significantly enhance students’ capabilities and confidence.

Here’s a quick guide that will help you to support student test-taking success in your classrooms and schools this year:

#1 - Active Learning Over Passive Absorption

Encourage active engagement with the material within your classroom, especially exercises that have students teach the material to one another. Beyond reading, listening, and writing, educators can increase the depth of knowledge by creating situational and relational opportunities to recall and apply the content.

#2 - Encourage Regular Study Breaks

During study sessions, advocate for regular breaks to prevent burnout and maintain a high level of focus. Techniques like the Pomodoro (25 minutes of study followed by a 5-minute break) can be very effective. To learn more about the Pomodoro technique that is gaining ground as a successful study technique, be sure to check out our blog post!

#3 - Know the Directions

Reviewing the instructions for the upcoming tests will help familiarize students with the rules and save precious time, as they don’t need to spend precious time digesting the instructions.

#4 - Constructive Feedback & Remediation

Quick, constructive feedback is vital to student success but may be an overlooked opportunity. Helping students understand why an answer is incorrect can be crucial to their test-taking strategies and study process. This insight can help students learn from their mistakes and improve their success over time.

#5 - Strategic Test-Taking Skills

Research the types of questions that will appear on the exams and encourage students to practice different strategies for each, especially multiple-choice questions. Be sure to indicate whether they are penalized for an incorrect answer and how to strategically “guess” using strategies.

#6 - Sensing Time & Allotting Chunks

Many students aren’t aware of the sensation of time passing and have no idea how to break down the test into time chunks. Encourage them to look at the number of questions and the time allotted to keep themselves on track when moving through the test. Practice this in class using timers or a vocal cue so they can learn the sensation of time passing.

#7 - Mindfulness & Stress Reduction

Incorporating mindfulness exercises into your classroom routine will help students self-regulate when test time approaches. Techniques like deep breathing, visualization, or brief meditative practices can significantly reduce anxiety and improve concentration.

Educators can create a supportive and effective learning environment by integrating these strategies. When students feel supported and equipped with the right tools, their test performance and overall attitude toward testing can improve significantly.


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