It’s natural for your child to be nervous before a test, but they may need help if their discomfort is too intense.
When a student forgets the answers they knew the night before or becomes so flustered that they fail to follow instructions, they may be experiencing test anxiety.
Many education experts believe that this condition affects about 20% of children, and that the numbers are growing since schools started devoting more time and resources to required tests over the past decade. As a result, blanking out at the sight of an exam book can hold a student back even if they know the material.
Help your child to relax so they can perform up to their potential. Start with this checklist for what parents can do to help a child with test anxiety.
- Talk about testing. Demystify the issue. Discuss the purpose behind classroom quizzes that help students measure their individual progress, and standardized tests that compare students from different schools or cities.
- Think positive. Point out how students can use pressure as a motivation to study. Praise your child when they do well. Teach them how to adopt a growth mindset, and challenge any limiting beliefs they hold about themselves.
- Study regularly. Being prepared is one of the most effective remedies for test anxiety. Your child will absorb more information if they study a little each day instead of cramming. They’ll also feel more confident.
- Limit distractions. Set down some rules to make study time more effective. Create a quiet space free from phones and TV shows. Allow instrumental music if it helps your child to focus.
- Share relaxation practices. Teach your child healthy ways to soothe themselves. Invite them to join you for a yoga class or practice deep breathing and meditation together.
- Talk with your child’s teacher. Ask your child’s teacher for suggestions. They may be able to recommend activities you can do at home or refer you to other professionals for additional support.
- Use practice tests. Self-tests are one of the most constructive ways to study. Ask the teacher for sample tests or work with your child to design your own.
- Review the last test. Ask your child to bring home a copy of any graded exam. Go over the questions and teacher comments to see what’s working and where your child needs to devote extra effort.
- Go to bed on time. Staying up late to cram the night before a test usually backfires. Your child is likely to quickly forget the material and be less alert the next day. Instead, plan on a good night’s rest.
- Eat a hearty breakfast. Students perform better when they give their bodies the fuel they need. Serve a breakfast rich in protein, healthy carbohydrates, and fats. Good choices include Greek yogurt with fruit or an omelet with vegetables, along with oatmeal or whole wheat toast.
- Arrive early. Give yourself plenty of time so you won’t have to rush around. Try laying out anything your child needs the night before, from the shoes they’ll wear to some extra pencils and erasers.
- Be strategic. There are many simple test-taking techniques proven to increase scores. For example, remind your child to scan the whole test first so they can budget their time, and use the final minutes to proofread their work.
Fight test anxiety by providing reassurance and encouragement while you help your child to develop their test-taking skills. Learning how to deal with pressure will help your sons and daughters to succeed in school and handle similar challenges in their adult life.