How to Help Your Students Overcome Test Anxiety
While it's normal to feel a little nervous about an upcoming test, some students experience debilitating test anxiety that can interfere with their performance, sleep, and even dread going to school on test days. Here are some simple strategies to help your students' overcome test anxiety and enable them to perform their best on tests.
Ask the student to identify the source of test anxiety
If you know your student is struggling with test anxiety, start by asking where that anxiety comes from.
The source of test anxiety can be as simple as a lack of preparation or as complex as deeply-rooted self-confidence issues, often because of inadequate support from parents and teachers.
Students will struggle with different aspects of taking a test. Only when you understand where that anxiety is coming from can you create a plan of attack to help your students tackle test anxiety.
Validate your student's feelings
Exercise your active listening skills to get a better idea of where your student is emotionally. Let them tell you how they're feeling and what challenges they're dealing with, rather than trying to fill in those blanks on your own. Then, use positive affirmations and relate to them whenever possible. Try statements like:
- "Finals are stressful for anyone, but don't worry—together, we'll make sure you're in a good spot to nail your big exam!"
- "This test sounds like a hard one, but we'll make sure you're prepared for it!"
- "This class has been really tough for you, but we'll work through the content you're going to see on the test together so you can do your best!"
Be positive and supportive as you interact with the student. Your uplifting energy can help put the student's mind at ease and help them feel more receptive, overall, to your guidance and help.
However, don't ignore the student's feelings or brush them off. What they’re feeling is valid, and they need to know that you'll help them from where they are, not where you think they should be.
Double down on targeted test prep
Regardless of where your student's test anxiety originates, one of the best ways to address it is to deliver the specific study support your student needs.
Take a look at what the student really needs to know for the test. What material is likely to be covered on it? Where is the student struggling the most? The better you understand your student's needs, the better you can target your tutoring sessions to those areas.
Once you have a good idea of what the student needs help studying, tailor your sessions and guidance to focus on those areas. Help the student retain the exam material by periodically quizzing them.
Help your student map out a study schedule
Studying doesn't end with the end of your tutoring session. Your student should continue to review and study independently in the days leading up to the test.
Help your student create a study schedule that works for them. Encourage them to review material:
- Between classes
- During lunch breaks
- After school
- Before the test begins
At the same time, make sure you encourage your student to work in breaks. Trying to study too hard or for too long can make it much more difficult to actually retain the material and can lead to higher overall stress.
Offer successful test-taking strategies
Often, combating test anxiety means becoming a more confident, prepared test-taker. Many students don't know how to take a test effectively because they've never received reasonable instruction developing this essential skill.
Teachers may simply present a test to their students and assume they'll do their best. Some students, however, may struggle to show off what they know on a test.
Try sharing some test-taking skills and tips with your student, including:
- Reading the entire question before starting your answer, so you can be sure you know what the question is asking
- Noting key words and phrases in test questions that tell what the question is really asking
- Skipping over questions you don't know the answer to and revisiting them if time allows
- Managing time effectively, including leaving more time for longer-form questions or questions that are likely to be more heavily weighted
- Reviewing answers before submitting the exam, especially if there's extra time at the end
With more effective test-taking strategies in their hands, many students will feel much more confident about the test ahead.
Teach your student anxiety reduction strategies
In some cases, the same strategies for coping with general anxiety work great for mitigating test anxiety. Teach your student effective anxiety-reducing and mindfulness techniques like deep breathing exercises, positive affirmations, and mindfulness meditation before tests.
Do you have a student in elementary school suffering from a high level of test anxiety? This article may offer some general mindfulness tips to help students cope with anxiety.
For older students, it may prove helpful to share strategies regarding overall stress reduction, especially if students tend to struggle with high levels of anxiety in general.
Are you prepared to help your students with test anxiety challenges?
Dealing with test anxiety can be a serious problem for many students. As a tutor, you may find yourself in a great position to alleviate that anxiety by working directly with the student on coping mechanisms and critical tools, including overall anxiety reduction strategies and test-taking strategies. You can also help build up your students’ self-confidence so they can go into test days with a clear (and confident) head.
Are you an emotionally-intelligent subject matter expert keen on sharing your knowledge with students to help them become confident test takers? Apply to join our vast network of online tutors today for Pear Deck Tutor (formerly TutorMe).