Helping Children Cope with Exam Stress

    Exam Stress pic, image

    Almost all children face exam stress when learning.

    At least this “Take out your no. 2 pencils” may be the single most anxiety-inducing phrase in our elementary schools.

    The pressure to perform on standardized test starts early, bombarding our children’s psyches with undue stress. Even great students who have spent the year preparing for their End Of Grade (EOG) exams may struggle to stay in a healthy headspace. What’s more: their scores are likely to reflect it.

    Meanwhile teachers and parents may sense tensions mounting, and feel at a loss for how to help. The urge to fix the problem or rescue is also common. But since you can’t take the test for them? What can you do?

    As we’ll see, preparation and perspective go a long way. Ahead we’ll cover there some strategies to help students cope with exam stress.

    Understanding Test Stress

    Let’s begin by attempting to enter the mind of a kid on exam day. It’s not simply the fact that they’re being assessed that is likely to have them stressed.

    For starters, standardized tests are administered differently. They’re rigidly timed, creating a sense of scarcity that can lead to outright panic. In their day-to-day teachers may be inclined to give extra time or help answer confusing problems on the test itself. However, EOQ and EOD tests with inflexible timing and complicated instructions create an inflexibility that can leave students thrown.

    Physical differences in their classroom like reconfigured seating and covered walls have the potential to challenge their sense of stability. Teachers may also be acting out of character, taking a more austere tone. The combination can be so disorienting it detracts from their performance.

    Exam Stress Strategies

    Every year since they were in the second or third grade they’ve been hearing about the importance of these tests, and how their scores will follow them throughout their school careers. It’s been built up and compounded for years. To date it’s likely to be the most crucial part of their scholastic lives.

    Fortunately, there are ways parents and teachers can help.

    Start with the most important meal of the day.

    A nutritionally complete breakfast supplemented with healthy snacks throughout the day is an indisputably critical part of test day. Proteins and whole grains in the morning will help regulate blood sugar levels longer. Fruits, veggies and nuts will help boost brainpower into the afternoon. Keep kids hydrated to support information recall and concentration.

    Teach test taking strategies.

    Instead of focusing the information on the test, spend some time talking through how to take the test. Always encourage them to give the instructions a thorough read-through before they do anything else. Next, show them how to go question by question, eliminating answers they absolutely know are wrong. For standardized state tests, it’s also usually better to make an educated guess at the answer even if they’re unsure. Blank questions will get them automatically docked.

    Help shift their perspective.

    Try to help shift some of the inherent dread of test taking into excitability. Explain that the EOQ is a way for them to show off how much they’ve learned over the school year. Also make sure they know that their scores don’t determine their worth. It’s always important students try their best, but their grade isn’t even truly reflective of their potential.

    Make time management a focus.

    Whether you encourage timed study sessions and quizzes at home or practice giving them in the classroom, make sure they’re familiar completing assignments within a given timeframe.

    strong>Manage your own anxieties.

    Teachers and parents may feel a stressed about kid’s performance. It’s a reflection of both of them in varying degrees. Still, It’s crucial to keep it in check and prevent that worry from spilling over onto the child.

    Ultimately, reducing exam stress in children starts in the home and extends to the classroom. Standardized testing isn’t going anywhere, but if we can help let off the pressure our students they are more likely to show us their real smarts!


    Dave Monaco has worked in education for 24 years and counting. He has put his M.A.T. to great use as the Head of School at Parish Episcopal School and helps Parish live out their mission to guide young people to become creative learners and bold leaders who will impact our global society. With his philosophy to “engage the mind, connect to the heart,” this father of three will continue bringing order to chaos one day at a time.

    How do you help your children cope with exam stress and anxiety? Share your experience with other parents!


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