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Dealing with Test Anxiety

Tests are nerve-wracking no matter if it’s a third-grade spelling test or AP biology exam. These experts share their tips for helping kids overcome test anxiety.


Some text anxiety can be a good thing because it motivates us to study. Problems arise when our anxiety is so high that it hijacks our cerebral cortex, or our “thinking brain,” causing our mind to “go blank.” In a testing situation, this can lead to panic because pulling information from our mind is our main goal at that moment.

It’s best to begin early, helping elementary students use strategies to manage test anxiety because there is less pressure surrounding grades. If a child has high test anxiety, parents and teachers should collaborate to figure out what works best for the student, trying out different scenarios on weekly tests to practice getting used to the emotional experience of test taking.   

Strategies include allowing students to take tests without time and location constraints. Once they’ve adjusted to that, they can practice taking tests timed and in a group. For some students, incorporating test accommodations through a 504 Plan or an Individualized Education Plan may be needed.  

-Emily W. King, Ph.D., Child Psychologist, Raleigh, NC.



Being prepared and rested before testing can minimize anxiety levels in kids. Children and teenagers have many competing priorities so parents can support their students by making sure there is time in their schedule to study, a dedicated study space, and tools to facilitate productive studying. Providing enough time to rest and decompress before testing is crucial too.

Anxiety in children and teenagers is often exacerbated by the pressure to excel that may come from their parents/guardians, peers, teachers, etc. Some children take this very seriously and put extra pressure on themselves. This can be alleviated by reassuring your child that their grades/scores do not always define their abilities, that there’s always an opportunity to improve, and that many lessons are to be learned from failure itself. 


Cristina H. Hartman, Ph.D., owner & CEO Mindcraft Makerspace & eXL Learning 



It’s so important for students to learn how to advocate for themselves as they learn more about their learning and testing styles. Creating a positive relationship with teachers and parents helps lower anxiety before it even starts. It’s then helpful if the teacher can tell students the purpose of the tests such as showing understanding of concepts we’ve been learning or a diagnostic test to see what skills need to be worked on. Understanding “the why” of the test can help a test taker calm down their brain. 

Reach out to your child’s teacher and school to come up with accommodations that work for your child. This could include taking the test in smaller chunks or in a small group. Or, looking to getting 504 accommodations, which some students get because of a medical diagnosis of anxiety. 

-Shannon Blackard, educator, Denver


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