Test anxiety and stress is real, and it’s a real detriment to student performance. In the study, Testing, Stress, and Performance: How Students Respond Physiologically to High-Stakes Testing, researchers found that changes in students’ cortisol levels (the stress hormone) correlated with decreased test performance – especially in students who were exposed to chronic stress outside of school.
Teachers like you can help your students with test stress by preparing them for what they’ll see and do. Here are some ideas, methods, and resources that you can use when teaching test-taking strategies for high school students.
6 Ways to Teach Test-Taking Strategies for High School Students
Directly teach test-taking strategies in class.
Take the time to build a test prep lesson or unit into your class curriculum. By explicitly tackling this topic, students will have the opportunity to be frank about their questions and needs when it comes to test-taking. Not only will your students use these test tips and skills in your classroom, but they will also use them throughout their high school and college careers, making this a worthwhile lesson to include in your class.
Test Taking Tips and Strategies by Making Meaning with Melissa
Close Reading Strategies, Techniques, & Tips: A Practical Guide for High School by GilTeach
Encourage students to adopt a growth mindset around tests and exams.
A recent study by the Society for Research in Child Development shows that when students receive a lower grade, their cortisol levels also spike. For some students, these levels return back to normal over the next day or so, but for others, the spike in cortisol persists and can make it hard for students to process and overcome the setback. As Edutopia notes, a growth mindset — or the belief that your abilities and success can be improved with time and effort — can help with overcoming this stress. Use these activities and resources to help instill a growth mindset and positive attitude in your secondary students before, during, and after taking tests.
Growth Mindset Activities by Queen’s Educational Resources
Includes Google Apps™
Growth Mindset State Exam Data Analysis and Goals Activity by Ms Social Studies Teacher
Pro Tip: You can also encourage students’ adoption of a growth mindset when giving feedback and report card comments, or when students are struggling.
Incorporate student independence and fun into your test prep.
The best learning often takes place when students feel involved and invested. Engage high school students in test preparation the same way you’d engage them in other learning — through fun and independence. Make test prep less daunting by turning it into a game, or allow students to explore their own interests while prepping by giving them choices through task cards.
AP Literature and Composition Test Preparation Updated Escape Room Game by Lattes and Lit
High School ELA Task Cards (Common Core Aligned) by J Shannon Literacy
Address students’ anxiety and stress head-on with holistic test-taking tips and mindfulness techniques.
The International Journal of Adolescence and Youth has found that: “The ongoing stress relating to education has demonstrated negative impact on students’ learning capacity, academic performance, education and employment attainment, sleep quality and quantity, physical health, mental health and substance use outcomes. Increasing students’ stress-management skills and abilities is an important target for change.” Be part of the change by being transparent about the impact of anxiety and stress and by giving your high school students test-taking strategies to manage it.
Anxiety and Test Prep Brochures for Teens by The Counseling Teacher Brandy
Social Emotional Learning activity | Mindfulness lesson for Taking Tests by Adventures in ISTEM
Includes Google Apps™
Have students practice standardized test formats through class assignments and assessments.
The assignments and assessments that you use in class can also be test prep for standardized tests. Incorporate vocabulary lessons into your daily bellwork, or mimic the type of questions students will see on national or state exams. This can include short answer, true or false, compare and contrast, long form writing, and multiple choice questions. By familiarizing students with the test questions and content they’ll see, your students will feel less intimidated by these standardized tests.
SAT ACT Unit 2 Spelling & Vocabulary Activities/Assessment by LITERATURE AND LANGUAGE smARTS
AP® Government Exams Bundle- 8 Tests Total by Holly’s Social Studies Store
Just Mercy Test by Barraug Books and Curriculum
Some in-class tests are timed, and almost all standardized testing is timed. So, it’s important that students know how to use the tools they have to maximize their time. As many tests have gone digital as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, students can now learn how to use tech to their test-taking advantage by becoming familiar with keyboard shortcuts and typing tips. After all, every second counts!
CHROMEBOOK SHORTCUTS by DARIN NAKAKIHARA
Not Grade Specific
Find more test-taking strategies and resources to support your high school students’ learning and growth in the TPT Catalog.