March 16, 2022

Building a positive academic testing environment

March 16, 2022

Academic testing has been around since the 1800s and remains a pivotal part of education. While many students (and some teachers) might happily do away with the whole concept, academic assessments are a key method for measuring learning outcomes. Standardized tests, advanced placement exams, and course-based assessment methods also highlight the effectiveness of school-wide curricula and areas needing improvement.

Tests don’t and can’t measure all aspects of learning. But for better or worse, how students perform on them affects not only their individual futures, but their teachers, schools, and communities.

So it’s pivotal to help them do their best. Of course this involves providing all learners with quality, rigorous educational experience in preparation. It also involves creating a positive testing environment where excess stress or anxiety doesn’t get in the way of showing what they’ve learned.  

What is a healthy amount of stress?  

Students should take testing seriously, and a small amount of nervousness or stress can keep individuals sharp and focused on the task.  

However, students can develop testing anxiety if they:

  • Place too much emphasis on one test instead of mastering the material
  • Worry about not living up to others’ expectations
  • Believe they have no control over how well they will perform
  • Feel guilty about their lack of test preparation
  • Think a grade is the only reflection of their worth

In some cases, testing anxiety can be severe enough to manifest as a learning disability. In this case, evaluation from a school social worker or counselor can help a student receive the accommodations they need to succeed.

For most students, testing anxiety and stress can be alleviated with simple interventions.

How can educators create a positive testing environment?

Talk about testing in positive ways

For students, an effective way to manage test anxiety is to view testing in practical terms and understand why it is essential. As students prepare for a standardized test, encourage them to think of it as an opportunity to show the school, district, and their families how far they’ve come in one year.

Use practice tests

If possible, allow students to complete practice tests to get acquainted with an exam’s format and structure. You can also use an interactive platform like Remind to provide downloadable links to practice exams students can complete at home.

Teach test-taking skills

For some students, it’s not the subject matter on a test that throws them off. Instead, it might be the logistics of the test itself. Here are some test-taking skills that most students find helpful:

  • Picking up main points from a long passage
  • Outlining an answer to an essay question
  • Marking keywords in multiple-choice questions or directions
  • Managing time during the testing period
  • Minimizing distractions
  • Answering every question
  • Reading questions carefully before answering them
  • Providing out-of-class test-taking support

Some students need a little extra help to prepare for tests. In addition to face-to-face interaction, personalized virtual tutoring through Remind Tutoring can give learners the attention they need.

Encourage self-care before each test

Students perform better when they enjoy overall physical and mental well-being. When under pressure, however, some students might lose sight of the importance of self-care. Educators can promote self-care on test days and at other times. For instance, on the morning of a test, teachers can use the Remind platform to send out an early text to encourage students to eat a healthy breakfast, pack a water bottle, bring a snack that’s not too salty, and a link to a calming meditation or song.

Reach out with motivational text messages

Part of an educator’s job is to champion their students, who respond positively to expressions of affirmation like “You can do this,” “I believe in you.” Using Remind to send encouraging messages or videos can help students feel supported as learners and human beings. It also reminds them of previous achievements and boosts their test-taking confidence.

Because tests have real-life implications, educators want to ensure their students perform as well as they can. Building a positive testing environment and culture in your classroom and school allows students to shine instead of stress, and shows them that they’re more than their test score.

Building positive relationships with students and their caregivers is one way to ensure high-stakes testing is stress-free. Let us know what works for you on Twitter and Facebook. And to learn more about how Remind can help, contact us.