Tick, tick, tick. As the timer ticks down during a test, your students’ anxiety can climb. Timed tests are a part of classrooms from elementary school through college, and are a necessary part of evaluating a student’s ability to process information quickly and effectively. Still, timed tests can cause stress and worry for some students. What can you do to ease that anxiety and help students tackle timed tests?
Encourage Home Preparation
From a good night’s sleep to a healthy breakfast, there are several things families can do at home to prepare students for test day. While sleep and nutrition should be priorities any day of the year, be sure to encourage good habits in the days leading up to the test, ensuring your students are at their best on test day.
Get the Wiggles Out
From the youngest elementary students to teens, movement can be a key factor in releasing pent-up energy and can reduce stress before a test. Take a few minutes prior to the test to do a few brain breaks—from stretching to jumping jacks, whatever works for your class. Here are a few fun suggestions to try.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The more experience a student has with timed tests, the better prepared she’ll be when it comes to the test that matters. Allow plenty of opportunities to practice with timed tests in your classroom before test day, so your students know what to expect and how to stay focused on the tasks required during the timed portion.
Students can work in pairs to practice for timed tests, with one student working the timer while the other completes the test. This works particularly well for short tests, such as one-minute math fact reviews, and can promote collaboration, encouragement, and support among classmates.
Remind students that they have control over their bodies and minds during a timed test. Slow, deep breaths can reduce anxiety, while a few self-help mental boosts—“I can do this!”—can go a long way toward helping your students tackle the test and reduce test anxiety.
During timed tests especially, concentration is important. Do everything you can to keep your room quiet and free of noise during the test. If you have students who are particularly sensitive to noise or need extra support to stay on track, consider allowing the use of noise-canceling headphones during a timed test.
Remind Students to Keep Going
Emphasize the importance of working quickly through the test. Discuss what to do if a student encounters a difficult problem or a problem he doesn’t know how to solve. Develop a strategy ahead of time to tackle these situations, encouraging students to avoid spending too much time on one problem. If they are having difficulty, suggest they skip the problem and continue working, with a plan to come back and finish the problem later if time allows.
No matter how a student performed on a specific test, finishing a test is always a reason to celebrate. Plan something fun for your class after a timed test, such as extra time outside, a class movie, or a class treat.