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Help students say goodbye to test anxiety

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Help students say goodbye to test anxiety

Stress and anxiety might start surging for you and your student this time of year, so try out these three simple, research-supported strategies to reduce stress and test anxiety and actually boost academic performance!


In a 2019 study, elementary students repeated words of encouragement to themselves before a test: “I will try my very best!” These students performed better on the math test than both the control group and students who spoke instead about their own abilities (I’m good at math”).


Research shows it is easier to coach other people through their problems than it is to help yourself.  Distanced self-talk capitalizes on this idea. Talking to yourself like you’re someone else—using your own name or “you” to work through your problems—helps you perform well under stress and regulate your emotions.  Have students talk to themselves as if they were giving advice to a friend.  This will help them frame problems as challenges to overcome rather than as uncontrollable threats. For young students, ask them to imagine what they’d say to themselves if they were a superhero.  This can help them manage their emotions and persevere on difficult tasks.


A 2019 study found that students who experience test anxiety benefited from a short exercise that reframed stress as a potentially positive force. Try this: before a test, have students write about the thoughts and feelings they are experiencing.  Then, instruct them to write about how these physical, psychological, and emotional responses could actually be helpful.

This TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal can help students (and teachers!) understand how some stress can be healthy and reframe how they think about stressful situations.


Our instructional coaches provide on-demand support to teachers five days a week.  Learn more reflection and stress-management strategies through virtual coaching–get started here.



Like these ideas? To learn classroom engagement strategies that make the most immediate impact, we recommend checking out our program, "Fostering Engagement Online Course."

Learn More >

Amy Jimenez

Author Since: May 8, 2018

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