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While tests are an effective way of tracking progress and can help kids identify academic areas that they need to work on, they can also be a huge source of anxiety.

Tests are an inevitable part of school life, and virtually every child in the country has to take them. Sometimes, students can develop a condition commonly referred to as test anxiety. Kids with test anxiety tend to worry intensely about upcoming tests, often preparing endlessly but then finding themselves unable to think straight once they sit down to take the test.

Over 10 million children in North America are affected by test anxiety, according to the American Test Anxieties Association. While a dose of anxiety is natural for most people when faced with an important milestone in their education, for some students, it can be crippling and severely detrimental to their mental health.

If you’re a teacher hoping to help students manage their test anxiety, we’ve put together a few helpful tips to keep harmful worries at bay:

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1. Recognize that stress can be a helpful and motivating feeling

Small, intermittent stress doses can push students to do their best during testing season. Reminding students of this fact can help them to recognize that their feelings are natural and can be harnessed for good. For example, telling students that a racing heart is often a good sign that they are excited and ready to take the test could fire them up to do well.

2. Keep an eye out for anxiety attacks

While mild to moderate anxiety symptoms, such as jittery hands, excess sweating, and a racing heart, are usually nothing to worry about, you should look out for signs of serious anxiety among students. Symptoms of debilitating anxiety (or sometimes even a panic attack) include:

  • Visible distress
  • Breathlessness
  • An inability to focus on the task at hand
  • Nausea
  • Trembling
  • Fainting

These symptoms can impede a student’s ability to perform to the best of their abilities, and you should attempt to make accommodations during the test. This could include letting them pause to sit in a room for a few minutes or drink water. While there may be testing regulations, your school should have protocols to help struggling students.

3. Remind parents of the importance of sleep and exercise

While kids tend to know intellectually that sleep and exercise will boost their brainpower, many are too preoccupied with reading and preparing for upcoming tests to bother going to bed early or slipping on their running shoes. To combat this problem, try reaching out to parents. They will be able to monitor their children’s behavior closely and can tell you if the student needs to work on improving their lifestyle.

4. Allow kids to get used to a testing environment

One of the most anxiety-inducing elements of testing is that it takes place in a silent room where students have to adhere to many intimidating rules. Therefore, simulating a test environment will help kids acclimate to this unfamiliar scenario and calm their nerves once the big day comes around. If you need more convincing, this British article offers a deeper insight into how simulated testing can effectively prepare students to attain the best grades possible.

Once you have completed your replica test, remember to ask students how they found it. If they feel a little anxious, reflecting on their experiences will prepare students to deal with similar feelings in the future.