Reducing Test Anxiety

Tips for Teachers to Help Anxious Test-Takers

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Are there students in your class who struggle with test anxiety? If so, they are not alone. Test anxiety is more common for elementary students than you may think. In fact, research shows evidence of test anxiety for students in grades as low as first grade, and this anxiety can even expand over time.

What does this mean for these youngsters? For many students, the nervousness from test-taking leads to test performances that are lower than their true abilities. When taking a test, students must draw on their working memory. For anxious students, "their worries use up some of their working memory, leaving fewer cognitive resources to devote to the test" and resulting in lower performance.

Fortunately, there are some things that teachers can do to help students who deal with test anxiety. See below for a few tips to consider in helping anxious test-takers.

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Squeeze Relief

If you notice students who are fidgeting before the test, this can mean they are experiencing psychological discomfort. Providing your students with some squeeze relief (soft and quiet toys) before the test can help them relax before the text.

Brain Dump

Before test day, remind students that once they have been given permission to start the test, they can use any provided scrap paper to write down any facts or key information they fear they'll forget and refer to the notes during testing. Remember: For SOL tests, students should not enter the testing location with notes already prepared OR create notes while waiting for tests to begin.

Express Yourself

Before taking a test, have students spend 10 minutes writing (expressive writing) about what they are feeling and thinking. This strategy may help reduce their nervousness and fears.

Test Anxiety Talk

If you think your students would benefit, have them talk about test anxiety as a class and share their coping strategies. They may have strategies that you don't know about and help other anxious students see that they are not alone.

Dress Rehearsal

View the test as a play and the preparation for the test as a dress rehearsal that allows students to practice doing what they will have to do in the test-taking situation. While studying is important (like reading over your lines in a play), having students "perform," or practice doing what the test will ask them to do is important as well.


Curriculum Review. (2015). Helping anxious students perform well on tests: Tips for parents and teachers. 54 (9).

Paul, A. M. (2013, February 2). Relax, it's only a test. Time. 181 (5), 42-45.

Created by:

Veronica Blunt