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3/22/23 blog post

let's talk 'test stress': practical ways to help your child with state tests

Discover effective techniques to support your child's learning and boost confidence during state test season

practical tips for test stress

In this article: 

Your palms are sweaty.

The clock is ticking away in the silent classroom.

You are filling out the bubbles, A, C, D...wait no, should I have put A?

You go back to erase the incorrect answer, when the teacher calls out “Pencil’s Up! Test Over!”

If you’re like many other people, the thought of standardized testing can bring back unpleasant memories of stress and lots of pressure.

State testing has not gone away. In fact, if you have a child who is at least 3rd grade level at a public school, they’re likely in the middle of state testing or about to start it soon.

Even for the best students, taking standardized tests can be a challenge. With standardized testing season comes:

  • A change in routine and schedule. 
  • Stress for students about their ability to perform well and be successful.
  • An exhausting schedule of multiple tests over many days.

As a parent or caregiver, you can help your child overcome test stress with these tips for before and after the test. 

knowledge is power: learn about the state test

First, before you’re able to give help it’s important to know what your child is facing as far as the test.

The definition of a standardized test is a test given to all test takers in the same way and scored in a “standard” or consistent matter to help compare the relative performance of students. There’s plenty of debate about standardized testing’s ability to accurately measure student’s learning...but for now, all 50 states still carry out some form of standardized testing.

In Ohio, these tests cover English language arts, mathematics and sometimes science. And each section can last between 1.5 to 3 hours.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, the tests are to:

  • Measure where students are based on the Ohio Learning Standards
  • Let teachers know what areas their students need the most support and improvement
  • Give information to the public about how schools are performing compared to other schools in their area.

That is a lot of information to get from one test, which can put a lot of pressure on students! Use these techniques to help ease that pressure and support your child through this season.

how to help your child before the test

Start the conversation. At least a week before the test, prepare your child by sharing with them:

  • What to expect on the test. You can reach out to the school administrator or teacher if you need more information.
  • The purpose of the test. Share with them that this test is not going to impact their grades but is instead to measure learning. Remind them that every student is different, and some students may finish the test faster than they do. Tell them that there’s no right or wrong way to do this test and they shouldn’t feel rushed.
  • That it’s okay to have feelings and questions about the test. This is the perfect time to use our Test Stress Conversation Starter Cards to start the conversation and get your child thinking about their emotions surrounding the test.

Create a schedule: You will need a new schedule for the week of the test. It’s important to focus on your child getting extra sleep and eating a healthy breakfast to prepare for long days of test taking and focus. Include your child in the conversations about how the schedule will change for this week and why.

Reassure your child: Share with your child that they should focus on doing their best. Remind them that they shouldn’t worry about not knowing the answers to questions. Explain to them that the test is designed so there may be some questions that they don’t yet know the answer to.

Don't forget to let your child know that your love for them is unconditional, and that their worth is not measured by their test scores. They need to hear from you that you love and support them no matter what.

how to help your child after the test

  • Encourage rest: After such a challenging test, your child will likely be more tired than usual. Now is the time to make space for more rest time during the day. Discuss with your child the importance of going to bed early and getting plenty of sleep for their next day of school.
  • Give them an energy break: While it's important to prioritize rest, keep in mind that your child has just spent most of their day focusing their energy and spending a lot of time being still. For some kids, they may have a lot of energy to burn, which you can encourage them to do in a constructive way by encouraging them to move their bodies, play outside and be active. 
  • Be their cheerleader: Use this time to offer your encouragement and support by being there for them during this time.

conversation cards for test stress

At On Our Sleeves, we believe in the power of open and honest conversations between adults and children. By having these conversations, kids not only learn how to express their needs, but they also gain confidence in knowing they have a trusted adult to confide in. We understand that starting these conversations can be challenging, which is why we offer conversation starter cards to help. Check out the cards below for ideas on how to talk with your child about testing and how to support them.  Or download this printable worksheet and use them while on the go!


Emily Weitz, BSW, LSW

Outreach Coordinator
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