How to Relieve Your Students’ Test-Taking Anxiety

Because stress is not going to help anyone's test scores.

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worried student before standardized test

As teachers, we experience a lot of stress as a result of state testing. So do our students.

Sitting and taking a test for hours is not part of their daily routine. Here are some ways to relieve your students’ test-taking anxiety.

1. Have a class meeting prior to testing.

At my school, we start testing the third week of April. The week before that, I will gather my students, and we’ll have a chat about testing days.

I focus on keeping them calm while still emphasizing the importance of taking the tests seriously. We talk about what it looks like to try your best.

I read my students the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, and we talk about the moral of the story. We discuss how this relates to test-taking. They quickly come to the conclusion that slow and steady wins because it’s important to read carefully and take your time.

2. Allow your students to ask questions about testing.

For my third graders, this is the first year they have to take the state tests. They have a lot of questions about how those days are structured and what to expect. As part of our class meeting, I allow them to ask anything they are wondering. This helps to alleviate a lot of their stress.

Even if you teach a higher grade and your students took the tests last year, they may have questions. The tests look different from one year to the next, and the way you structure your days may be different from their previous teacher.

After our question and answer session, my students are usually feeling better about testing days.

3. Review test-taking strategies.

One of my students’ biggest fears is that they won’t know the answers to the questions on the test. I reassure them that we have learned everything they need to know, and we review the test-taking strategies we’ve practiced all year.

I use the samplers provided by the state so my students can see exactly how the test is structured. We review underlining key words, eliminating incorrect answers, and checking our work. To make this practice more fun, we go over the answers as a board game or by playing Kahoot.

Get a complete list of the test-taking strategies I teach my students, and download a free copy of my board game review.

4. Plan fun activities for the rest of the day.

Many of my third graders enter the year thinking that state testing takes the entire day. They are very anxious about finishing in time and taking a test all day.

When they find out that the testing only takes a few hours in the morning, they are relieved. They also relax more when they hear that we spend the rest of the day doing fun activities.

My school district requires us to still do academic lessons, but we choose high-interest topics that will engage our students. I do a unit on the Titanic, which my students absolutely love. We also read Bunnicula and do activities with it. Looking forward to these fun activities relieves a lot of my students’ testing anxiety.

5. Use motivational sayings to help your students relax.

Each testing day when my students enter the classroom, they find a motivational saying on their desks with a little treat. The sayings remind them about our test-taking strategies and encourage them to try their best.

Discover some other ways to motivate your students for state testing, and get a free download of my motivational sayings.

The Cheat Sheet

After your class meeting and question session, your students will be able to focus better and do their best. Reviewing test-taking strategies will give your students the confidence they need to be successful. The motivational sayings and fun activities will keep them from dreading the testing days. Using all of these tips together will relieve your students’ test-taking anxiety.


How do you calm your students' fears about standardized tests? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

For more test prep resources and ideas, check out the Do's and Don'ts of Test Prep.

Author Bio:

Tara Dusko is a 3rd-grade teacher and mom of two. She blogs about ways to have a fun, low-stress year as a teacher at Teach Without Tears and about time and money-saving tips for moms at Flavors, Fashion, and Fun.

Want more from this author? Check out Tara's tips for managing a chatty class and her money-saving ideas for teachers.
About the author

Tara Dusko


About Tara

Tara Dusko is a reading coach who helps teachers implement a reading workshop model in their classrooms. She previously taught 5th grade for one year and 3rd grade for 13… Read more

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