Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Test Anxiety

I often have parents ask me how their child can do so well on daily school work, yet get an FCAT score lower than the parent expects. One reason for this may be text anxiety.

Standardized tests are used to measure a child’s learning to see if he or she is ready to advance or if they need extra time to learn. They are also important for school accountability. Because of this, children face increased pressures to perform well on standardized tests, such as FCAT.

One reported outcome of standardized testing has been an increase in the prevalence of test anxiety among school-aged children. According to research published in the Journal of Instructional Psychology, students who experience high levels of test anxiety tend to score lower on standardized tests than student who experience low levels of test anxiety. Nothing shocking about that!

According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are a number of actions parents can take to help prepare their children for tests and reduce their anxiety. First, meet with your child’s teachers on a regular basis to discuss progress and ask teachers for activities you can do with your child at home to help them prepare for tests. Some parents like to conduct “mock” tests using a timer for practice.

Try to provide a quiet and comfortable place at home where your child can study, and on test days, make sure your child is well rested and has had a good breakfast. As a test day approaches, calmly talk to your child about what is coming up and encourage him or her to do his or her best.

You can practice stress and relaxation exercises with your child, too. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or visualization can help. Visit my free on-line Stress Management workshop at

Finally, it’s important for parents to avoid placing too much emphasis on their children’s test performance by getting upset over “bad” test scores. Doing this will only place extra pressure on your child to perform and increase their anxiety instead of making it better. Make sure your children know they are loved no matter how they do and that you know they will do well because they are ready!

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