Six Ways to Help with Test Taking Jitters

My adult daughter recently switched jobs and had to take a hairy test on something I can't begin to understand. She hadn't studied a bit when she was asked to take the test. The problem? If she failed, it would cost her employer $800. She was stressed but went through with it anyway.


She called me a couple days later, excited that she passed. I wasn't surprised. She's always been a good test taker.



Here's the great thing. All kids can learn to be good test takers if they are taught the proper steps. Unfortunately, the steps aren't enough if emotional triggers prevent them from recalling crucial information during the exam.


Sadly, I've found that negative emotional responses are the biggest culprit interfering with test taking success. And it's like pouring gasoline on a fire when the student has a learning disability.


It's especially frustrating when the student knows the information on the test and fails anyway. All that hard work spirals down the drain as confidence sails out the window. The problem isn't the test itself but the student's knee-jerk reaction to taking it.



So...what do you do to help your child or student pass tests? After all, test taking is a necessary evil and it's not going away any time soon.


Following are some tips on how to help your child take tests without breaking a sweat.


1. Practice breathing exercises. I know this sounds odd for test taking, but deep breathing can help with stress. There is an app that I like to use that has a visual that really helps. You breathe in and out while you follow a line that goes up and down a gradual "hill". You breathe in as the hill goes up and breathe out as it goes down. There are many apps available, but this one is called Breathwrk.


2. Role play. Make play or practice tests at home and have your child practice with them. If you're a teacher, you can use "play" tests as a way to desensitize your students to the real event. For this exercise, you aren't concerned about the end product or outcome - just the act of taking the test and making it fun and a positive experience.


3. Take the pressure off the child or student. This might be the hardest thing of all to do, because just by saying the word "test", pressure is built into the equation. Kids will often go into fight or flight over a test, but if you consistently let them know that the world won't end if they perform poorly, then they start to practice less stressful responses to test taking.


4. Make arrangements with the teacher to retake tests until an adequate score is achieved. Most teachers are happy to help your child conquer these fears and will allow a retest. Just by achieving success the second or third time, your child will start to connect test taking with happier emotions.


5. Give rewards for adequate test scores. This one is up for interpretation, as each child has unique likes and dislikes. If you have a grab bag of cheap toys for younger kids or give teens something like extra video game time, it can make the process of test taking more pleasurable. Be sure to give rewards for "C" scores or better in the beginning and gradually build up to "B's" and "A's".


6. Make expectations realistic. For instance, if your child has always struggled with math, then passing Algebra with an A might be too big of a stretch. Compromise works great in a situation like this.


Taking a test doesn't have to be a frightful, daunting affair. If your child or student is struggling in this arena, try a few of these tips and see what happens!



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