De-Stress for the Test

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Children taking a test

It’s that time of year again! Spring has arrived, bringing warmer weather, longer days, blooming flowers and very soon thereafter, the end of the school year. Spring is also the time for End of Grade (EOG) testing, and for many children is a time of high anxiety and stress. Most children (and adults) experience some level of anxiety during a test or exam. A little nervousness can actually motivate them to study and do well. However, for many children, the level of anxiety rises to such a degree as to cause them to “blank out”; limiting their ability to think clearly and recall information, even when they have a thorough understanding of the material. Consider the following tips and strategies for taking the stress out of testing:

  • Focus on the Positive: Constant reminders of the consequences of a poor score are not helpful and only serve to increase anxiety and stress. Instead, notice all the things they are already doing well and make sure to tell them. Helping your child develop a positive attitude about test taking will lessen the anxiety and help them view the test as an opportunity and a challenge to succeed.
  • Minimize Distractions: If you have not already done so, set up a quiet place and time for them to complete and review their assignments. Turn off the TV and other devices during this time so that the focus remains on the task at hand. Doing well on an exam is easier if your child has developed good study habits and has been consistently completing their assignments.
  • Plan Ahead: Have your child start studying for the test now. Talk to their teachers and make sure that you understand what they will be tested on so that you can help them make the connections between the test and what they already know. Review the material as a regular part of their study routine. Don’t “cram” for the test the night before as this will likely increase their anxiety level and interfere with a good night’s sleep.
  • Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Create and maintain a routine at home that ensures that your children get enough sleep, particularly during the school week. Provide healthy, well-balanced meals, particularly at breakfast; avoiding foods that contain a lot of sugar and caffeine. Ensure that they have time for exercise and some personal “down time”. Also consider shutting down phones, tablets, and computers an hour before bedtime and set them to charge in any room other than the bedroom.
  • Testing Day Strategy: Work with your child to develop a calm and relaxed approach to the test. Arrive a few minutes early on the day of the test so that they have time to prepare and focus on the coming task. Make sure they have all the supplies they will need for the test (if not provided) packed and ready to go the night before and help them build mental habits that can help them reduce stress and anxiety. Slow, deep breathing and positive thoughts about themselves and their abilities can reduce anxiety and allow them to remain focused.
  • Tips for Test Success: Remind your child to listen closely to all the instructions given and if they don’t understand the directions ask the teacher for clarification. They should read each question carefully and completely and review all of the potential answers before making a selection, even if they think they know the correct response. Remind them that if they are having trouble with a question that they can skip it and come back to it later-not to worry away their time on one question.

You cannot take the test for them but you can alleviate some of the stress and anxiety by providing them with tips, techniques and strategies that allow them to better cope with test stress. Not only will you be helping them become better test takers but you will also be equipping them with the strategies to handle the challenges they will encounter in the future.

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