6 Test Anxiety Strategies for Elementary Students 

By Laura Driscoll
Read Time:  min
Bring some calm to the testing months with ready to go strategies.

High stakes testing is anxiety provoking AND too much anxiety can decrease performance. Eeek! Leading up to testing season, you likely spend time getting students familiar with the test format. You practice useful tips for picking the best answer. Where do test anxiety strategies fit into your prep?

Heading into the testing months, add in one or two of these test anxiety strategies for elementary students to help them feel their best.

1. Morning Greetings

Positive daily greetings help set the tone for the day and build community. They have been shown to increase academic engagement and decrease disruptive behavior. 

Individually greet students by name at the classroom door and give them a choice for a non-verbal greeting. Things like shaking hands, high-fives, fist bumps, elbow bumps, waves, and hugs. You can even have a visual greetings menu.

Pair this with positive and encouraging statements.

As a school psych, I stationed myself at the entrance to the building to greet students each day. I would try to individually greet students on my caseload or who I knew needed the extra connection.

2. Make a Test Day Care Plan

Give students time to make a care plan for testing weeks. Focus on things like:

  • Sleep - What time are they going to sleep and waking up?
  • Food - What will they eat for breakfast to give them energy for the morning?
  • Activities - Plan a physical activity for each day and a relaxing activity to do after school
  • Test Day - What time will they arrive and how will they get there? How will they keep their morning stress free?

When times get tough, we all really make sure to prioritize self care and reinvest in healthy habits. HAHAHAHA. Just kidding, we keep pouring from an empty cup, eat ice

Self Care for Kids: Build Healthy Habits

3. Reflect on Success

Have students reflect on a few of their successes this year. Tapping into memories of success can build confidence and remind them they can do hard things. You can have students share theirs on test morning.

Activity Idea 

Students write down two or three of their successes from the year on strips of paper. You can then make each strip into a chain link and chain the strips together. Have the success chain hung up around the room! 

4 Stress Busting Exercises

Help students find one or two strategies that they can use on test day to keep their stress low. You know I'm a big fan of breathing exercises since you always got your lungs with you. 🙂

Brain breaks are short, simple activities that teachers can do during transitions, when their class is not 100% present, and as a regular part of the schedule. Throughout a school

Brain Break Activities that Energize, Calm and Focus

5. Build Positive Self Talk

Positive self talk is a great test day strategy. Focus on simple phrases students can repeat to themselves when they face challenges on the test or before testing begins.

There is some research, especially for kids who doubt their skills, that effort self-talk is better than ability self-talk. For example, "I can try my best" vs "I am smart."

Try this positive self-talk lesson and craft where students identify some of their negative thoughts and come up with a positive phrase instead.

6. You Are Not a Score

Remind students that they are worth more than a score.

Keep calm and remind students that they are prepared. 

Resources In This Post

Positive Thinking Lesson and Craft

Positive Thinking Craft

The printable worksheet and craft will help students create their own positive self talk phrases. 

Self Regulation Brain Breaks

This resource has three kinds of brain breaks: Energizing, Calming, and Focusing.

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I’m a school psychologist who left her office (closet?) and got busy turning a decade of experience into ready to use counseling and SEL resources.

I live in New York City with my adventurous husband and relaxed to the max daughter who’ve grown to appreciate my love of a good checklist.

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