Testing! Testing! Helping Students Overcome Test Anxiety and Prepare for Tests" DAY 2, Post 1

Welcome to Day 2 of our discussion about helping students make connections between learning and assessment! If you haven't yet chimed in on Day 1, it's not too late!

For our first of two posts today, here's the question Daphne will be addressing:

What are some strategies to integrate test prep into classrooms?

For participants, what are you already doing to integrate test prep in your classes?


Can you really integrate test prep into lesson planning and classroom activities? I hope by now that you can answer with a resounding "yes!"

Test taking is a set of skills that learners can master despite track records that may not, at first glance, look promising.   Testing is not some unknowable experience that no one has any information about.  Testing programs have a vested interest in ensuring that both instructors and learners have as much information as possible.  It is all about whether you choose to access the available information and—here’s the important part—act on what you know. 

Here are a few things that instructors can coach learners on.

  1. Find time—a few minutes—one class period once a week to demystify testing. For example, you might want to include it as your close out topic on Wednesdays.  Make sure your information about the test (or tests) your state uses is up to date and that you know where to refer students for more detailed information.  Take the initiative to visit the test sponsor’s website on a regular basis to stay abreast of any changes in policy or content focus.
  2. Although we live in the Information Age, we also live in an age where misinformation takes on a life of its own—akin to immortality.  When you hear misinformation about testing, correct it.  Follow up by creating an opportunity for discussion—and an opportunity to expand learners' critical thinking skills.
  3. Take stock of your own attitudes about testing to make sure that students aren’t receiving mixed messages.  Learners are often more resilient than we give them credit for. Just like developing other skills, they can learn to manage their test anxiety—among other things, they have to be willing to do so. 
  4. Even if we can’t help people "love" testing, we can work with them to reduce the negative emotions associated with it.  Two things can help—attitude and preparation.  For example, firing up self-efficacy is vital.  What does that entail?  Learners have to have confidence in their own competence. Instructors can help by creating mastery experiences in the classroom that are transferrable to live testing. Dry runs and practice sessions can go a long way to preparing students for test day.
  5. Testing is a skill. That’s the great thing about emphasizing skill acquisition—once a skill is learned, it is available for use across a wide spectrum of activities.  Ways you can help:
    1. Create timed assignments that simulate testing. 
    2. Reward effort and accuracy. 
    3. Help learners to break down instructions (simple or multi-step) into manageable actions through modeling.
    4.  Expose students to a variety of “if-then” scenarios to enhance their problem-solving skills.
    5.  Take time to share some of your own successful testing strategies.  
  6. Encourage learners to adopt a growth mindset about testing; it is easy to overlook the fact that feedback can and should be used to improve performance.  Help students inclined towards a fixed mindset to find value—not disappointment—in feedback whether it is positive or negative.
  7. Have your learners share their testing experiences; someone in your classroom needs to hear others' stories.

Find one thing in this post that resonates for you and try it.  Don't forget to let the community know how it goes!

Hi Susan and Daphne, thanks again for creating this great discussion!

In school, I remember being told many times to study for tests. Less clear in my memory was being taught exactly how to do that. As you said Daphne, "Testing is a skill" that we can teach our students. I am thinking we can also make clear to our students preparing for high school equivalency (HSE) tests how to study for them.

To avoid hearing, "What you taught me was not on the test," we can show students the explicit skills they can use to read for information and how to tackle the word problems they will see on the math test. We can make clear that they may not see information on the article we read in class on the HSE test but that the think aloud strategy or other strategy we taught them can work to glean information from any text they read.

I appreciate this great discussion,

Steve Schmidt

Continuing from yesterday's idea that testing is not separate from instruction but part of it, I think one of the best ways to spend class time is as you said in number 3, help learners to break down instructions (simple or multi-step) into manageable actions through modeling.

And what a life skill that is as well! Pointing out to students that they employ this skill already in the classroom in math, social studies, and other subjects to solve problems might help them draw connections as well.

Great discussion!

Daphne and all, This is a great discussion with so many practical tips to address the unavoidable -- testing. I appreciate your emphasizing that learners are often more resilient than we think. Fostering a growth mindset, so learners embrace the idea that their effort can make all the difference is also so valuable. Thank you for these suggestions!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP