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6 Tips to Help High-Schoolers Cope With Test Anxiety

By Lexi Walters Wright

High-schoolers face some new types of tests, from midterms and finals to college entrance exams and state graduation tests. The stakes may feel higher to them, which can fuel their anxiety. These tips may help reduce your teen’s stress over tests.

1. Listen to his concerns about tests—and about the future.

Many high school tests help determine what your child will do after graduation. These may be especially stressful for teens with learning and thinking differences who may feel unsure about their future.

Talk honestly with your teen about what he’s feeling. Listen to his concerns. Try to be reassuring but realistic. “We can help be sure you’re prepared for this test. And however you do on it, don’t be worried. There are so many options for you after high school, and we’ll work with you to find the best ones.”

2. Help balance his schedule so he’s not squeezed for time.

It’s one thing to not take enough time to study for a test. It’s another to not have enough time. Feeling rushed can increase your child’s anxiety. Help him leave enough room in his schedule to comfortably prepare.

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Look over his schedule of classes and activities. Then talk about the amount of time he needs to leave open for studying. You might consider scaling back on activities if that will give him breathing room to study without feeling like he’s compromising something else. Explain how keeping a balance can relieve stress.

3. Help him avoid stressful cramming.

Last-minute cramming for an exam is likely to increase your child’s anxiety. Part of the problem may be issues with organization and time management.

One way to avoid that is by helping him create a monthly calendar of tests. From there, help him set up a weekly schedule for review before each test or quiz. Review the test calendar at a set time each week and create the next week’s study plan. Having a schedule mapped out, and staying on top of it, can help him feel more in control.

4. Eliminate surprises with information about the test.

Some high-schoolers become anxious when they don’t know what to expect from the test. Is it multiple choice or short answer? Does it involve a skill they struggle with?

Suggest that your child find out what type or combination of questions will be on the test or exam. Knowing what to expect can help him prepare and feel more confident going into it. If he has trouble with handwriting, for instance, he may worry that his science test will involve labeling a diagram. If he could practice in advance, it might reduce his anxiety.

5. Be sure he understands the test supports he has.

Knowing that his specific needs are understood can help reduce your child’s test anxiety. If he has an or a that includes testing accommodations, make sure he knows what they are and why they’ll help him. (He can apply for accommodations for college entrance exams, as well.)

You can also tell him that if his teacher or test proctor forgets about his accommodations, he should self-advocate and remind them.

6. Communicate to your teen that setbacks happen—and it’s OK.

Even with good study habits, some students with learning and thinking differences may not do well on tests. They may start dreading tests and become anxious over them because they’re afraid of failing.

Try countering that fear by coming up with an action plan after a bad test grade. Tell your teen: “I know you studied hard for that health test. Now you know what you tried and what didn’t work so well. Should we get your IEP team together? We can talk about what might work better for you next time.”

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  • Facebook
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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom