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Don't let tests overwhelm your child


Last updated 10/22/2018 at 10:31am

Testing is a fact of life for students from elementary through high school. Whether it’s a school system required standardized test or an exam or quiz from the teacher to measure progress and understanding, tests can be a source of stress and anxiety for many students.

There is no cure to remove all the anxiety from testing, but there are strategies to reduce stress levels and to maximize test performance.

The starting point is being physically prepared for not only test-taking, but all aspects of the school day by being well-rested and eating healthy foods.

Studies find that the average teen should be getting eight to 10 hours of sleep per night, especially on school nights. Those studies, however, find that only about 15 percent of teens get at least eight hours of sleep on most school nights. That doesn’t make for a well-rested brain when that algebra pop quiz appears in the morning.

Similarly, good nutrition plays an important role in brain function. Skipping breakfast will always impair brain function. Junk and high-sugar foods almost always guarantee a sugar high that will be followed by a crash during the school day. Drinks high in caffeine, like coffee, soda and energy drinks, may help a student feel alert but can also make them feel jittery and nervous, making concentration is much more difficult.

While getting enough sleep and eating well are important, another critical key to reducing test anxiety is to be prepared. It means staying on top of the subject, keeping up with assigned readings and being aware of when tests are coming up. By maintaining a more constant understanding of the subject matter, students can avoid having to do last-minute “cramming,” which almost always raises anxiety levels and doesn’t improve grades much.

Parents can also help their child by teaching them some relaxation techniques, such as taking a few deep breaths before and during the exam and thinking positive thoughts about doing well.

Doing well on tests requires planning, studying and relaxing. But if these things don't help a child, they may be suffering from some degree of test anxiety. In such cases, the school counselor or an outside professional counselor, can provide help in overcoming the problem.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at


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