Tips for Parents: Dealing with Test Anxiety before the SAT or ACT
Test anxiety is normal and almost every student experiences some level of nervousness about the test. Both parents and students can be affected by worry about these tests that determine the student’s next steps in life: where they will be going to college. But worrying about the test only makes it harder to prepare, so having a plan in place to reduce the stress is an important part of the test preparation process.
As a parent, you can help your student feel more comfortable by helping them feel prepared and confident as the exam approaches. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if your student is feeling anxious:
- Maintain a positive attitude when talking about standardized tests and the college admissions process in general. Your child will pick up on your positive feelings and this will lessen their worry and anxiety.
- Help teach your student early in high school how to prepare for quizzes, tests and exams by reviewing materials with them and helping them master study skills.
- Plan to have the student take the exam more than once so a single exam feels less significant, starting in the Sophomore year with the PSAT.
- Begin a test prep program early so that your child has time to get to know the exam format and master the topics that will be covered. Include a few practice exams to make them feel familiar with the test format. Start the prep at least eight weeks before the exam date, earlier if anxiety, a busy schedule or academic deficits are factors.
- Find a supportive, experienced, one-on-one tutor who can work closely with the student on improving performance and building confidence, and can help the student learn coping mechanisms to overcome their test anxiety well before test day.
- Practice concepts your student has learned for the exam aloud with them. Have them explain the ideas to you. By “teaching” you they will better internalize the material for themselves.
- Even if they stumble during the test prep period, express confidence in your child’s ability to reach their goal and remain steady and supportive. Keep their study schedule on track so that there is a consistent message that this is an important commitment and goal they can attain.
- Make sure they are well rested the night before the exam and get a healthy breakfast for increased stamina and alertness.
- Have your student prepare their things for the test the night before (pencils, calculator, water bottle, etc) so there’s no panic or rush in the morning.
- Be positive, calm and supportive all the way to the test center which will signal to your child that you have confidence in them.
For more on how to relax and reduce stress about your exam, try some of our stress reduction techniques for students.