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Implementing strategies to assist test-anxious students.

Teachers can implement effective strategies to assist test-anxious students. By being aware of the types of student with these traits, they can develop, modify, and implement various strategies into their teaching repertoires. Furthermore, teachers who employ formative formative /for·ma·tive/ (for´mah-tiv) concerned in the origination and development of an organism, part, or tissue.  factors, habitual Regular or customary; usual.

A habitual drunkard, for example, is an individual who regularly becomes intoxicated as opposed to a person who drinks infrequently.
 prudence, purposeful pur·pose·ful  
1. Having a purpose; intentional: a purposeful musician.

2. Having or manifesting purpose; determined: entered the room with a purposeful look.
 learning experiences, and test-wise guidelines guidelines, a set of standards, criteria, or specifications to be used or followed in the performance of certain tasks.
 can help students with their academic performance levels while significantly diminishing their levels of test anxiety.


With the increase of testing in our schools, teachers need to recognize the role test anxiety plays in student performance and then implement effective strategies to assist students who are overshadowed this trait trait (trat)
1. any genetically determined characteristic; also, the condition prevailing in the heterozygous state of a recessive disorder, as the sickle cell trait.

2. a distinctive behavior pattern.
. Teachers are responsible to enhance and measure student learning within their classrooms; they are also responsible to prepare students for testing, whether it is high-stakes testing A high-stakes test is an assessment which has important consequences for the test taker. If the examinee passes the test, then the examinee may receive significant benefits, such as a high school diploma or a license to practice law.  (state-developed) or low-stakes testing (teacher-developed). The federal legislation, No Child Left Behind, "requires states to administer reading and mathematics assessments at least once a year to students in grades 3 through 8 (and once more in grades 10-12) by 2005-06. In addition, science assessment must be administered at least once in each of three grade spans by 2007-08" (Lissitz & Huynh, 2003, p. 1). While states scurry to submit their plans and proficiency pro·fi·cien·cy  
n. pl. pro·fi·cien·cies
The state or quality of being proficient; competence.

Noun 1. proficiency - the quality of having great facility and competence
 levels, "researchers discover the impact of test anxiety on students' performance is often influenced by the evaluation practices of the classroom teacher" (Hancock, 2001, p. 1 ; Stipek, 1998; Pintrich & Schunk, 1996). Testing of students is occurring at a time when schools are being scrutinized by federal and state policy makers based on student scores (Snyder, 2004). Therefore, teachers must examine, develop and implement strategies to help students obtain educational gains that may increase their test scores. Strategies to assist students are: (1) ascertainment of test anxiety, (2) formative factors, (3) habitual prudence, (4) purposeful learning experiences, and (5) test-wise guidelines.

Ascertainment of Test Anxiety

Students of all levels of academic achievement and intellectual abilities can be affected by test anxiety (Sarason et al., 1960). Test anxiety occurs in varying degrees and is characterized by emotional feelings of worry, fear, and apprehension The seizure and arrest of a person who is suspected of having committed a crime.

A reasonable belief of the possibility of imminent injury or death at the hands of another that justifies a person acting in Self-Defense against the potential attack.
. It can be exhibited differently by individuals (McDonald, 2001). As students progress through the educational system with additional testing required by states, abundant pressures can negatively impact their performance.

To facilitate higher levels of performance, Nitko (2001) urged teachers to be cognizant cog·ni·zant  
Fully informed; conscious. See Synonyms at aware.

[From cognizance.]

Adj. 1.
 of three types of test-anxious students. The first type is one who lacks the proper study skills and the ability to organize or comprehend the main ideas for the content being taught. Perhaps the fear of testing results from a lack of competence. The second type of test-anxious student possesses proper study skills, but also possesses "fears of failure" (p. 309) when experiencing assessment. The third type believes he or she possesses quality study skills but, in reality, does not. Hence, this type continues to be anxiety ridden when assessments are administered. Furthermore, at-risk students The term at-risk students is used to describe students who are "at risk" of failing academically, for one or more of any several reasons. The term can be used to describe a wide variety of students, including,
  1. ethnic minorities
  2. academically disadvantaged
 and ESL (1) An earlier family of client/server development tools for Windows and OS/2 from Ardent Software (formerly VMARK). It was originally developed by Easel Corporation, which was acquired by VMARK.  (English as a Second Language) may have even higher levels of test anxiety. Beidel et al. (1994) ascertained that test anxiety existed in similar prevalence between African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race.  students and white school students.

Teachers need to consider how they will address the competence levels of these types of students before implementing an assessment. When teachers determine the existing competency COMPETENCY, evidence. The legal fitness or ability of a witness to be heard on the trial of a cause. This term is also applied to written or other evidence which may be legally given on such trial, as, depositions, letters, account-books, and the like.
 level of test-anxious students, they become more aware of strategies they can develop or modify when implementing their assessments. Moreover, with this knowledge they can assist their students, of all types, to attain higher levels of performance and achievement.

Formative Factors

Teaching encompasses various forms of assessment. To diminish test anxiety, teachers are encouraged to implement a stronger base of formative factors.

A factor is defined as "any circumstance that influences the course of events" (Webster, 2002, p. 137). These formative factors can occur by implementing a broad array of both traditional tests (essays, multiple choice, binary, completion, matching, etc.) and performance-based assessments (project-centered instruction, rubrics, oral presentations, and journal writing), to name a few. Formative factors include procedures before, during, and after the assessments. The emphasis is that teachers use continuous means of assessment throughout, not just at the end of chapter or course exams. Discussing the likely test content, marking procedures, and working with both individuals and small groups is most effective when conducted prior to the assessment sessions.

As formative factors are used with students, teachers should urge students to take notes so they see the value of note taking to enhance their learning. As students take notes, review material, and use graphic organizers Graphic organizers are visual representations of knowledge, concepts or ideas. They are known to help
  • relieve learner boredom
  • enhance recall
  • provide motivation
  • create interest
  • clarify information
  • assist in organizing thoughts
 (visual representations that show relationships of the content) they are assisting themselves tremendously. Marzano and his colleagues (2001, p. 48) state that while "summarizing and note taking are mere 'study skills,' they are two of the most powerful skills students can cultivate." These authors encourage teachers to recognize the following generalizations about note taking to help students. They are: "(1) verbatim ver·ba·tim  
Using exactly the same words; corresponding word for word: a verbatim report of the conversation.

 note taking is, perhaps the least effective way to take notes, (2) notes should be considered a work in progress, (3) notes should be used as study guides for tests, and (4) the more notes that are taken, the better" (pp. 43-44). Teachers should allow time for students to review their notes and assist them in the format of note taking. Having a 'notebook check' often verifies whether or not the students achieved attainment of the key concepts.

Likewise, completing a student profile of assessment obstacles and having students examine their own obstacles are good ways to help students. Having students recommend and submit their own strategies on how to better their performance can be effective.

Implementing formative factors can assist in preparing students for multiple types of assessment, so they are comfortable when testing occurs. Further, this provides the teacher with a broader view of students' abilities and how they can design appropriate learning opportunities for diverse learners. All of these efforts assist in obtaining more meaningful results while working towards reducing anxiety for students.

Habitual Prudence

Teachers possessing habitual prudence are acutely aware of their conduct when teaching, preparing tests for students, and when administering their assessments. The physical conditions of adequate space, lighting, and room temperature are considerations. Distractions may be kept to a minimum by placing a sign on the door. Students are prepared for test taking by having two writing instruments. Confidentiality about the test results is maintained for each student. Respect for test-anxious students occurs by not using red pens for the scoring process.

According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 Linn linn  
n. Scots
1. A waterfall.

2. A steep ravine.

[Scottish Gaelic linne, pool, waterfall.]
 and Gronlund (2000, p. 357), "excessive test anxiety" occurs when teachers: (1) threaten students with tests if they do not behave, (2) warn students to do their best "because this test is important," (3) tell students they must work fast in order to finish on time, and (4) threaten dire consequences if they fail. Teachers with habitual prudence inform their students that the assessment results are to assist them with their learning, and they use a positive approach throughout the learning process.

In addition, prudent teachers take steps to prevent cheating. Make sure the directions are clearly written and legible leg·i·ble  
1. Possible to read or decipher: legible handwriting.

2. Plainly discernible; apparent: legible weaknesses in character and disposition.
 (typewritten type·write  
intr. & tr.v. type·wrote , type·writ·ten , type·writ·ing, type·writes
To engage in writing or to write (matter) with a typewriter.
), and do not talk or interrupt the students during the assessment process. Prudent teachers avoid walking around the room, looking over students' shoulders. They provide reassurance and acceptance.

Cooperation is emphasized over competition. These teachers provide feedback about the learners' performance in a specific, positive way--not just the exam grade. Most of all, these teachers collect the test, correct it quickly (if it is a classroom assessment), and then analyze the results of the test. The corrected test papers are returned to the students and positive feedback is provided. Teachers know to discuss and/or re-teach specific test items that may need further clarification. It is suggested that by returning the test to the students in a timely fashion and going over the content, students learn what they need to do to increase their achievement. This strategy is much more effective than just reporting an exam grade to a student. Learning occurs through the review of the test taken, and helps reduce anxiety for the next test.

Purposeful Learning Experiences

When the testing frenzy Frenzy

term referring to the Beatles’ (rock musicians) immense popularity; manifested by screaming fans in the 1960s. [Pop. Culture: Miller, 172–181]

Big Bull Market
 becomes fever pitch fever pitch
A state of extreme agitation or excitement.

fever pitch

a state of intense excitement

Noun 1.
, particularly with high-stakes testing, teachers may have difficulty motivating students to explore content or subject areas that interest them. In essence, teachers begin to serve and focus on a limited curriculum because of the state-imposed tests. They focus on using practice guides and released items derived from their state's department of education test banks. Some teachers often begin teaching concepts that are similar to the state-imposed tests the very first day of school. The classroom becomes the drill and practice room where they 'practice test' the life out of students. All this does is increase stress and perhaps increase the number of dropouts-those who dropped out of learning and are waiting for a chronological chron·o·log·i·cal   also chron·o·log·ic
1. Arranged in order of time of occurrence.

2. Relating to or in accordance with chronology.
 date to leave the once meaningful educational system.

Teachers need to value other avenues that show mastering of content--through class discussions, lower-pressure quizzes, and plans for projects, reports, and essays.

Balance needs to be the key to learning. Teachers must deliberately look for better solutions to engage students in purposeful learning experiences. Teachers know how their "curriculum is broken down into a set of subskills, which are then ordered in a hierarchy of instructional objectives. For each step in the instructional hierarchy, a criterion-referenced test A criterion-referenced test is one that provides for translating the test score into a statement about the behavior to be expected of a person with that score or their relationship to a specified subject matter.  is designed, and a performance criterion indicating mastery of the subskill is specified. The teacher starts at the lowest step in the hierarchy, pretests, teaches the objective, and posttests on the material. If the student does not demonstrate mastery, the teacher uses corrective strategies"(Fuchs 1999, p.2). These corrective strategies are purposeful, meaningful and reduce test anxiety because concept attainment and task mastery are achieved.

Test-wise Guidelines

According to Airasian (2001), what "a teacher can do to prepare pupils for formal classroom achievement tests is to provide them with good instruction" (p.159). This is accomplished by clearly stated objectives, content reviews, guided practice, content emphasis, and other meaningful learning activities. Objectives, instruction and assessment should be woven together while teachers exhibit ethical and appropriate behaviors for test preparation exercises. Areas he urges teachers to be cautious are: (1) focus instruction only on the formats used on the test, (2) use identical test items during instruction, and (3) give pupils practice taking actual test items. Linn and Gronlund (2000, p.356) recommend the following guidelines to prepare students for test taking:

* Suggest ways of studying.

* Give practice tasks like those to be used.

* Teach test-taking skills.

* Teach how to write well-organized essay answers.

* Stress the value of tests and assessments for improving learning.

* Relieve anxiety by using a positive approach in describing the test or assessment and its usefulness.

Various websites are available (included in the further reading section) that provide tips for students to help them overcome their test anxiety. There is a plethora plethora /pleth·o·ra/ (pleth´ah-rah)
1. an excess of blood.

2. by extension, a red florid complexion.pletho´ric

 of resources for teachers to assist students, including articles written specifically for students.

Collins (1999) recommends anxiety management training as one of the best ways to help students who are test-anxious. She suggests teaching students relaxation exercises, introducing them to the anxiety hierarchy, and using methods to desensitize de·sen·si·tize
1. To render insensitive or less sensitive, as a nerve or tooth.

2. To make an individual nonreactive or insensitive to an antigen.

 their anxiety.


Teachers can implement effective strategies to help test-anxious students. By ascertaining test anxiety, they become more aware of the types of students with test anxiety. By being aware of these types, they can develop, modify, and implement new repertoires in their assessment procedures. By using more formative factors in their assessment processes, teachers lessen the anxiety levels for their students and enhance the instructional process as well. Habitual prudence from teachers occurs prior, during, and after the assessment process. Providing purposeful learning experiences and test-wise guidelines help students obtain maximum performance. When teachers implement and students experience the aforementioned strategies, aspects of test-anxiety can be significantly diminished.

Further Reading

Brown, Y. 2002. High-stakes test anxiety. Retrieved August 13, 2003, from the World Wide Web:

Bruno, B. 2003. Test anxiety. Retrieved August 13, 2003, from the World Wide Web:

General-purpose learning strategies for test anxiety. 1998. Retrieved August 13, 2003, from the World Wide Web:

Helping your child manage test anxiety. 2002. Retrieved August 13, 2003. from the World Wide Web: http ://

Helping your child with test-taking. 2002. Retrieved August 13, 2003. from the World Wide Web:

How to keep calm during tests. 2003. Retrieved August 13, 2003. from the World Wide Web:

Managing test anxiety. 2002. Retrieved August 13, 2003, from the World Wide Web:

Landsberger, J. 2002. Dealing with test anxiety. Retrieved August 13, 2003, from the World Wide Web:

Probert, B. 2003. Overcoming test anxiety. Retrieved August 13, 2003, from the World Wide Web:

Test anxiety. 1996. Retrieved August 13, 2003. from the World Wide Web:

Test anxiety. 2003. Retrieved August 13, 2003. from the World Wide Web:

Test-taking strategies. 2002. Retrieved August 13, 2003, from the World Wide Web:


Airasian, P.W. (2001). Classroom assessment: Concepts and applications. Boston: McGraw Hill.

Beidel. D.C., Turner, S. M. & Trager, K. N. (1994). Test anxiety and childhood anxiety disorders Anxiety disorders

A group of distinct psychiatric disorders characterized by marked emotional distress and social impairment, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
 in African American and White school children. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 8(2), 169-179.

Collins, L. (1999). Effective strategies for dealing with test anxiety: Teacher to teachers Series. ERIC Document Reproduction Service, ED 426214.

Fuchs, L.S. (1999). Connecting assessment to instruction. Schools in the Middle, 9(4), 18-22.

Hancock, D.R. (2001). Effects of test anxiety and evaluative threat on students' achievement and motivation. The Journal of Educational Research, 94(5), 284-291.

Kohn. A. (2001). Fighting the tests: A practical guide to rescuing our schools. Phi Delta Kappan. 82(5), 349-357.

Linn, R.L. & Gronlund, N.E. (2000). Measurement and assessment in teaching. Upper Saddle River Saddle River may refer to:
  • Saddle River, New Jersey, a borough in Bergen County, New Jersey
  • Saddle River (New Jersey), a tributary of the Passaic River in New Jersey
: Prentice Hall Prentice Hall is a leading educational publisher. It is an imprint of Pearson Education, Inc., based in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA. Prentice Hall publishes print and digital content for the 6-12 and higher education market. History
In 1913, law professor Dr.

Lissitz, R.W. & Huynh, H. (2003). Vertical equating e·quate  
v. e·quat·ed, e·quat·ing, e·quates
1. To make equal or equivalent.

2. To reduce to a standard or an average; equalize.

 for state assessments: Issues and solutions in determination of adequate progress and school accountability. Retrieved June 18, 2003 from Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation:

Marzano, R.J., Picketing picketing, act of patrolling a place of work affected by a strike in order to discourage its patronage, to make public the workers' grievances, and in some cases to prevent strikebreakers from taking the strikers' jobs. Picketing may be by individuals or by groups. , D.J. & Pollock, J.E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research based strategies for increasing student achievement Increasing Student Achievement: What State NAEP Test Scores Tell Us is a RAND study of educational reform in the United States. The League of Education Voters cites the study in support of its Initiative 728, which advocates reducing class size and increasing per-pupil . Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, or ASCD, is a membership-based nonprofit organization founded in 1943. It has more than 175,000 members in 135 countries, including superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and .

Masikiewicz, M. (1999). Conquering test anxiety. Career World. 28(20), 16-19.

McDonald, A. (2001). The prevalence and effects of test anxiety in school children. Educational Psychology, 21(2), 89-101.

McMillan, J.H. (2001). Classroom assessment: Principles and practice for effective instruction. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Nitko, A.J. (2001). Educational assessments of students. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

Orr, T.B. (2003). Fighting the fear of test taking. Current Health, 26(7), 23-25.

Pintrich, P.R., & Schunk, D. (1996). Motivation in education: Theory, research, and applications. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Sarason, S.B., Davidson, K.S., Lighthall. F.F., Waite, R.R., & Ruebush, B.K. (1960). Anxiety in elementary school elementary school: see school.  children. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
: John Wiley John Wiley may refer to:
  • John Wiley & Sons, publishing company
  • John C. Wiley, American ambassador
  • John D. Wiley, Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • John M. Wiley (1846–1912), U.S.

Simmons, R. (1994). The horse before the cart: Assessing for understanding. Educational Leadership, 51(5), 22-23.

Sloane, F.C. & Kelly, A.E. (2003). Issues in high-stakes testing programs. Theory Into Practice, 42(1), 12-16

Snyder, S. (2004, February 8). Philadelphia schools adopting a test-preparation program. The Philadelphia Inquirer Philadelphia Inquirer

Morning newspaper, long one of the most influential dailies in the eastern U.S. Founded in 1847 as the Pennsylvania Inquirer, it took its present name c. 1860. It was a strong supporter of the Union in the American Civil War.
; B4.

Stipek, D. (1998). Motivation to learn: From theory to practice (3rd ed.). MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Tuckman, B.W. (1985). Evaluating instructional programs. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Webster's Dictionary Webster's Dictionary - Hypertext interface.  and Thesaurus. (2002). New Lanark New Lanark, Scotland: see Lanark. , Scotland: David Dale This article is about David Dale. For other uses, see David Dale (author).
David Dale (1739 – 1806) was a Scottish merchant and businessman, famous for establishing the influential weaving community of New Lanark.

Dr. Viola viola: see violin.

Stringed instrument, the tenor member of the violin family. In appearance it is almost identical to the violin but slightly larger; its strings are tuned a fifth lower.
 Supon, Professor, Bloomsburg University, Bloomburg, PA.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Viola Supon, Associate Professor, 3206 McCormick Center in Bloomsburg, PA 17815: Email:
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Author:Supon, Viola
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2004
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