Managing Test Anxiety

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When athletes are pushed to perform in high-pressure situations many of them describe having heightened senses that they use to their advantage. They’re able to quiet their minds, zone out the crowd, and make the play. Kids with test anxiety have the opposite reaction.

Anxiety has the potential to shut you down. I can say first hand that I've had this experience while in school, and many of my clients have as well. Neuropsychologist Ken Schuster explains  “When kids are having test anxiety they can’t think clearly, they can’t judge things the way they could if they weren’t anxious. All of your other abilities get clouded up by anxiety.”

There are various reasons why some kids are more likely to develop test anxiety. Test anxiety often correlates with kids who have learning issues. Children who have ADHD or other learning issues may already feel somewhat anxious about school and when it's time to take a test, that feeling is magnified. 

Children with learning and attention issues may need an extra confidence boost to keep stress and self-doubt under control on test day. These surprising tips might do the trick to help reduce test anxiety.

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  • Crank up the power tunes.

Music has such an influence on our moods. Music can relax us, however research also shows that music can give us a feeling of empowerment. Listening to high-volume (not too loud!), bass-heavy songs tends to put people in a more powerful mindset. Have your child create a playlist of songs that make her feel energized and motivated. She can listen on the way to school or between periods before a test.

  • Strike a power pose.

Researchers have found that when one makes themselves "small" by slouching, crossing their arms or keeping their head down, they in fact feel less confident about the tasks they are aiming to accomplish. Studies show that the opposite may be true - when you're stretched out to make yourself "large" you feel more confident. Strike a power pose - try putting your hands on your hips with a widened stance and your head held high. How do you feel? To learn more about the influence of body language, check out Amy Cuddy's inspiring TED Talk.

  • Make an "I did it" list.

It's true - success really does breed success. Remembering past achievements may boost your child's confidence before tackling a new challenge. Brainstorm a list together of his past victories and triumphs, both big and small. These achievements could include anything from hitting a home run, to writing a great history essay or giving a speech to his whole class. Write each one down and encourage your child to review their "I did it" list before bed and leading up to the big exam. 

Even if the test does not go well, being reminded of those successes will help your child realize he has many strengths.


Every student has a different learning style. For an individualized plan customized to your child's needs, please contact Dana Aussenberg at or email