As testing days continue to rise in districts around the country, many educators and researchers believe schools could do a better job minimizing the stress and anxiety students feel due to testing.
In an attempt to combat this anxiety, many districts, schools, and teachers have begun integrating stress relief strategies into the curriculum as they prepare for tests. Techniques like breathing exercises, light yoga, and meditation are growing in popularity around the country, but they all have the same limitation: they’re not doing anything to directly improve student performance.
Teaching students how to relax and clear their heads is clearly a key piece of the test anxiety puzzle, but it is far less than the full picture.
Practice tests can help dealing with stress
That’s where practice tests come in. For years, practice tests have been maligned as busy work, but the fact of the matter is that a solid preparatory program of high-quality practice tests can help students feel prepared for a test far better than mindful breathing or a stretching break.
So, why are practice tests so valuable? Well, for one, they mimic the physical and psychological conditions of taking a test. Practice tests look and feel just like the exam they’re built to prepare for, whether it’s the SHSAT, SAT, GRE, or Smarter Balanced test, and they put students through the same thought processes and cognitive exercises that they’ll need to succeed on test day. By “scrimmaging” on practice tests, students can anticipate skills the real test will be accessing and grow accustomed to the rigors and expectations of the exam.
Test anxiety is certainly a key issue in our schools, but we shouldn’t assume the best way to assuage student stress is to eliminate cognitive rigor. While test anxiety strategies like yoga and deep breathing might help students overcome passing feelings of dread, the only way to truly eliminate their stress is to remove the mystical power of the test by making it knowable. Practice tests do this by providing students with authentic experience that shows them that they can and will succeed.
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