How Teachers Can Lower Test Anxiety

In this section find information on how a teacher might reduce test anxiety in their own classroom.
Prepare students for their tests.
  • This doesn't mean you give away specific answers, but tell students what material they are responsible for and the test's general focus. Make sure the students are familiar with the test format as well. If appropriate, you can give a pretest, so students can see how ready they are for the real test.
  • Teach students study skills and measure their test taking skills. (See the Tips for Teachers section under Test Tips.)
Be careful with what comments you give students.
  • Teacher comments can help or hinder the anxious student. Avoid focusing on possible negative consequences of a low test score and instead encourage students to put out their best effort and work carefully.
    • Examples of good comments:
      • "You should be proud of how hard you've worked this semester."
      • "If you try hard, and use all the test-taking skills we have practiced, I'm sure I'll be proud of your work."
    • Examples of bad comments:
      • "You need an 'A' on this test just to pass the course."
      • "This test is easy, everyone should get a 'hundred' on it."
Teach students to self-monitor their thinking.
  • Off-task thoughts create distractions that hinder concentration during a test. Explain to your students the difference between "on-task" thinking and "off-task" thinking.
    • On-task thinking:
      • Specific thoughts pertaining to the problem at hand and its solution. Example: "What do I need to know to solve this problem?" or "Am I moving fast enough to finish on time?"
    • Off-task thinking:
      • Basically, thinking about anything else unrelated to test completion. Examples: "I can't do this." or "I wonder if everyone is ahead of me?" and "What will happen if I don't know the answer?"
Have students practice monitoring their thinking during an assignment or test.
  • Give students a self-monitoring sheet during a test. Every time the timer goes off during the test, students check their thinking pattern and check off if they were doing "on-task" or "off-task" thinking.
    • The sheet is for the student's records only. Explain that it is used to help students learn how to focus on the task at hand better so they get higher test scores.
Teach students to self-monitor their tension.
  • Tension can be another test distraction that breaks student concentration. Help students control their tension with relaxation exercise (like controlled breathing) or help students self-monitor their tension.
    • You can use a similar self-monitoring sheet to help students measure their tension. Every time the timer goes off, students mark whether they are feeling tense or relaxed.
    • Again, these sheets are for the student's records only. Explain that learning to recognize tense feelings can help students control their tension. Also, focusing on test strategies instead of tension can help students relax.