Ah, spring time is here! The warmer air and budding flowers can only mean one thing – standardized testing season is upon us.
LAA 1, ELDA, NAEP, DSC, DIBELS, LEAP, EOC, EXPLORE, PLAN, ACT, SAT, WORKKEYS, CLEP, AP, LAA2…
If you have a school-age child, you have likely heard of at least one of these tests. In this day and age, our children are bombarded with standardized and high-stakes testing. While these tests are meant to ensure students are on track and accomplishing grade level milestones, the stress surrounding them increases each year.
What is Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety can range from physical symptoms (stomachaches, headaches, etc.) to behavioral or emotional symptoms (fear, difficulty concentrating, etc.). In some instances, test anxiety can be so severe it inhibits a child’s performance on the test. We want our children to do their best, but what happens if the pressure becomes too much? How do we minimize test anxiety without necessarily minimizing the importance of the test?
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Talk to your child.
This might seem a bit obvious, but simply talking about your child’s feelings about these tests could help you figure out the root of the anxiety. Is it a fear of failure? the unknown? running out of time? Once you find out more you’ll be able to better counteract the anxiety.
2. Find out about the test.
Many anxieties stem from fear of the unknown. The more information you have about the test, the less intimidating the test will seem. How many questions are on the test? Is it timed or untimed? What do the questions look like? Seeing some sample questions could alleviate the unknown. You can find information about standardized tests through your child’s teacher, school counselor, or the state department of education website.
3. Talk to your child’s teacher.
Your child’s teacher will have good insight into how prepared your child is for the upcoming test. Best case scenario, the teacher gives you assurance that your child is well-prepared for the test–assurance you can pass on to your child. Worst case scenario, the teacher gives you specific things you can work on with your child. Keep in mind the teacher has encountered this test multiple times and will have good professional opinion on what students need to know in order to do well.
4. Know the worst case scenario.
This might sound counter-productive for alleviating test anxiety, but it helps to know what happens if your child does not score well on the test. Will they be able to retake it? Will they still be able to move to the next grade level? This is information best discussed with the school, not other parents or students. Oftentimes the “rumored” worst case scenario is far worse than the actual worst case scenario.
5. Good old-fashioned pep talks.
Encourage your child. Point out their strong points. Emphasize how much they’re doing right. Be the voice that helps silence those words of self-doubt they have in their heads. Remind them they are more than just a test score.