“Tis the season for summative assessments.  As report cards go out and the holidays approach, it is time for teachers to think about testing kids on their skills.  Here are some thoughts to consider.  ~EMP

Summative assessment is just as important as formative assessment, as both are necessary for effective instruction and planning. Although summative assessment (testing) is your way to measure student learning, it’s stressful. Test anxiety effects up to 40% of students, and 26% of them are affected all of the time (http://www.jefflazarusmd.com/test_anxiety.html). It interferes with information storage and retrieval and can give you false results. Here are some signs of test anxiety and ways that you can help students to overcome it.

Signs of test anxiety—

•    weeping (in young students)
•    nail biting or finger-chewing
•    rocking, leg-shaking, foot tapping or fidgeting
•    lack of concentration or time-wasting
•    hair twisting
•    pencil-breaking/twirling
•    headaches and/or nausea

Content mastery—

Making sure that your students have mastered the content is the most effective way to help them alleviate test anxiety. Check consistently for understanding and explain what will be on the test. Once your students know the content, help them visualize it on the test and answering the questions correctly.  You’ll feel pressured by the clock on the wall, but don’t move on until everyone has a grasp of the content.

At-risk students—

Many at-risk students experience test anxiety. Many are from low-income or single-parent families, they may have little academic support from home and peers, have disabilities and/or behavioral issues or a poor testing history. These students are very capable of learning and you can help them by making sure that they have extra academic and emotional support.

Becoming testwise—

Teach your students how to take tests more effectively. Many students suffer from an “over/under” complex: they overestimate the challenges while underestimating their own abilities. It’s really a matter of perception. Explain to your students that being a little nervous is fine, as it helps them focus and “get in the zone.” Prepare them for what will be on the test. Teach them test-taking skills such as:

•    Avoid reading a question too quickly or not reading/following directions carefully. If using a scantron, erase any stray pencil marks and make sure every bubble is filled.
•    Answering the questions they know first, coming back to the difficult ones.
•    Deduction, such as eliminating two answers that say the same thing.
•    Using information from previous questions to answer other questions.
•    Double-checking answers.
•    Ruling out obviously incorrect answers.

Students as test scores—

Be aware that high stakes testing can cause students a great deal of trauma and stress. Sometimes it’s difficult to escape teaching to the test, especially during testing season. There’s an observed link between teacher behavior and student behavior during testing time (Landry, 2006), but you can help students by setting a calm and confident atmosphere. Make it clear to your students that they are not being judged. Those with poor testing history have a fear of the evaluative aspect of testing and how they’ll be perceived (Ormrod, 2008). Also explain to them that there’s no need to panic when others start to hand in their tests, because it’s not a race.

When you help your students conquer test anxiety, everyone wins. During testing time, your students are looking to you for calm confidence. Remember that YOU are the thermostat in your classroom, so set it well!

Landry, D. (2006). Teachers’ (K-5) perceptions of student behaviors during standardized     testing. Curriculum & Teaching Dialogue, 8(1/2), 29-40.

Ormrod, J.E.(2008). Educational Psychology: Developing Learners. (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice.


This article was written by DJ Sweetin for the team at kendall.edu. Teaching is a very noble profession; for those interested in teaching Kendall can assist with their Illinois teacher certification programs.