How to Relieve Test Anxiety

  • Posted By: Joshua Dolim
  • November 30, 2018

While every student is different, the number one cause of test anxiety is not knowing what to expect. High-stakes exams like the ISEE, SSAT, SAT, and ACT are significantly different than in-school assessment tests that students regularly take, so the strategies for taking these tests are different too. This might even be the first high-stakes test your student will take, which can add to any anxiety they’re already feeling. The good news is that this is actually pretty easy to address!

The best thing you can do for your student to help relieve test anxiety is to give them the opportunity to familiarize themself with the test and what to expect on test day. There are a couple ways you can do this.

First, you could just schedule your student to take the test more than once. This gives your student the opportunity to take the test a first time without the pressure to perform weighing so heavily. Once they’ve taken the test once, they’ll know exactly what to expect the second time around. Students often do better on their second test date, as the first sitting is a sort of preparation for the second.

There are, however, some drawbacks to this. For one, there is often a bit of time between the first and second sitting. The lessons learned on that first test can be forgotten by the time the second date come around. And, you’re also not exactly easing your student into things when you have them take the test without any previous preparation; it’s more like throwing them into the deep end and hoping they swim. Then there’s the fact that once they’ve finished the test the first time, the second test is still looming…which can be significant for a student experiencing test anxiety.

(We should note that this scenario is different from taking the test a second time because your student feels they can do better. There are definitely advantages to taking the test twice, but probably not if it comes at the cost of your student’s mental health.)

Alternatively, you can have your student take full-length practice tests on their own before going in for an official test. While we do recommend leaving yourself room to take the official test more than once, if you get the right practice and targeted study in beforehand you’re much more likely to see the scores you want the first time around. You also have the advantage of getting to know the test in a much more comfortable environment—your home. Most students are going to ease into things better if they can get their first experience with the test in a safe and comfortable environment, especially students who might be experiencing anxiety already.

Additionally, you have the opportunity to get a benchmark of how your student is doing, and then show them their progress as they continue to practice and study. Is there any better confidence builder than seeing positive progress? As your student takes the full-length practice tests, it’s going to give you the opportunity to start seeing which areas are the most ripe for improvement and which strategies are going to be the most helpful to implement. You’ll have targets to hit and a plan to follow rather than just trying to figure out what you should work on by yourself.

When your student takes full length practice tests and gets to know what types of questions they’re going to encounter on test day, it empowers them to walk in to the testing facility with confidence. And when they have a set of strategies in their back pocket for how they will handle those challenging questions on the test, they’ll feel like they can tackle anything. The bottom line is, practice is the best way to combat test anxiety.

Check out Test Innovators' practice tests for the ISEE, SSAT, ACT, SAT, and PSAT