Back to Blog

10 Tips for Supporting Students During Standardized Testing

All students could use a little more support during the stressful time surrounding standardized testing.

SchooLinks Staff
SchooLinks Staff

Apr 01, 2022

High-stakes testing is stressful for students of all ages–from those taking tests for the first time all the way through seniors in high school worrying about the results of AP tests and end-of-course exams. Students can manifest this stress and anxiety in a variety of ways. For some, this can include physical symptoms such as headaches, upset stomachs, or general fatigue. Others have a higher energy response and are not able to relax or control their emotions. And still others might not outwardly show worry, but are actually having to expend a great deal of energy hiding these feelings while at school. 

As testing season nears, here are 10 tips to help support students of all ages:

  1. When scheduling testing sessions, consider the student experience. Create intentional spaces between sessions so that students are able to rest and recharge. Consider ways to ensure a quiet building during testing, and, when possible, schedule testing sessions during the morning hours to take advantage of students’ morning energy and focus. 

  2. Use upcoming testing windows as a springboard to talk about the importance of eating well, sufficient sleep, and regular exercise. Build into the conversation that these practices are always important, but especially critical when feeling stressed or anxious. Encourage students to make a plan for how they will build these healthy habits into their routines. 

  3. On testing days, share personalized notes of encouragement with students. Compliment their effort and reinforce that they just need to try their best. No matter the age, a personalized, uplifting note can calm worries and add joy. 

  4. Though testing can be a stressful experience for counselors and teachers, too, it is important not to share these feelings with students. Students pick up on even subtle cues from those around them. Aim to be a supportive, calming presence through words and actions.

  5. Routines are calming for students. At the beginning of each day, talk with students about the schedule so that they know what to expect throughout the day. For younger students, consider making a visual schedule so they can keep track of what is ahead. 

  6. Build in down time to the testing day, and let students know ahead of time when they can expect a break. By letting students know when they will be able to relax or go outdoors, they are more likely to have the energy to persevere through long testing sessions.

  7. Practice mindful breathing. This can be a great strategy to help students feel present in the moment and slow down feelings of worry. Share different strategies for helping students to focus on their breath. (Here are some tips for doing so with younger students and tweens and teens.) Consider taking a few moments before a testing session to have all students practice breathing exercises and encourage them to use these techniques during a test. 

  8. Because testing requires a very controlled environment, some students may feel they don’t have any agency. Before or after testing windows, empower students with choices when possible. For example, students might choose what activity they would like to do during down time. Beyond making kids feel like they have some control, this also helps to meet the unique needs of different learners as some students prefer quiet time to decompress after testing while others benefit from more active interactions with peers.

  9. Find ways to infuse opportunities for movement into the day. Testing requires a lot of sitting with sustained focus. Quick movement or stretching breaks can help to keep students engaged, and longer, planned breaks are highly restorative.

  10. Laughter really can be the best medicine. Find ways to infuse a moment of laughter and levity when students are stressed through age-appropriate silly jokes, funny memes, or playful videos.

When testing is finished, pause with your students to celebrate and applaud their effort and focus. And, remember that most students require time to recover from the intensity of the testing experience.

While helping students manage their stress, it can be helpful for them to have an understanding of social emotional learning. See how SchooLinks supports SEL with activities, lesson plans, check-ins and more.

Show Me SchooLinks

email-icon (2)

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest news, updates, and content from SchooLinks in your inbox

Read This Next

How To Identify And Tackle School Counselor Burnout Due To Covid-19

How To Identify And Tackle School Counselor Burnout Due To Covid-19

School counselor burnout is on the rise during the pandemic. Understand the causes of burnout in education, and get some strategies for fig...

A Complete Guide To Building A College And Career Readiness Framework

A Complete Guide To Building A College And Career Readiness Framework

Building a college and career readiness framework is a big job. That's why we wrote a big guide to help school districts create next-genera...

14 Resources For School Counselors During National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

14 Resources For School Counselors During National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Bookmark these 14 valuable school counselor resources for National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September