Strategies for Testing Success

March 2015 Update

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MCAS season is approaching and our students and teachers have been hard at work for the upcoming days of testing. For some, this is the first year taking MCAS, and, for some, it is the third. No matter how many times students have been through this, big tests can be scary and cause anxiety or worry. So how do we balance making sure the students are well prepared and confident, while staying calm and relaxed? During our Guidance Lessons in March, we discussed stress: what it is, how it feels in the body, what are situations and/or things that trigger stress, and what are some healthy strategies to manage it. We discussed that short-term stress can even be helpful to initiate a task such as a performance, test, or sporting event. Students identified triggers such as: speaking in front of people, a playoff game, having a lot of things to do in one day, an argument with a friend, homework, tests, and going to middle school. We then brainstormed strategies and we discussed the fact that like triggers, everyone’s strategies are unique and that some may be more helpful than others. The video below discusses some helpful strategies. In addition we discussed “things that are within our control and things that are outside of our control” specific to MCAS and the students learned that there many things that they can control both leading up to MCAS and on the test day. We then generalized this strategy to any life situation that may cause stress - it is an empowering exercise.

Managing Stress - Brainsmart - BBC

Helpful Tips and Resources

These are some tips for your child:

  • get a good night’s sleep

  • eat a healthy breakfast

  • wear comfortable clothing

  • have a water bottle and a snack
  • be on time for school
  • have a book to read
  • BREATHE! If you feel frustrated, put your pencil down and take a few deep breaths
  • Have a positive attitude - you are ready!

Write you child an encouraging note the day of the test!

Books and Articles

Creative Strategies

Create stress balls:


Play Dough (Homemade or store bought)

9” balloons

Permanent markers


1. Gather supplies and pair students up for the activity.

2. Give each student a deflated balloon and a ball of play dough that is slightly larger than a golf ball.

3. Working together, students stuff their balloons with the dough and tie the end after getting out the excess air by squeezing the top.

4. Decorate the balloon with a design or face.

Other stress ball recipes: