Coping with Standardized Test Stress: 8 Strategies

The end of the year is an exciting time for parents and students due to the fact that school will soon be over, opening up the opportunity for summer adventures. However, there is usually one last hurdle to overcome before summer fun can begin: standardized testing. Such high-stake exams can leave students burned out, and parents frazzled about how to best support their children during this time. Read on to learn eight ways parents and students can collaborate to implement strategies that will conquer standardized tests and even other exams.

1) Look at the big picture

Standardized testing is important because ACT and SAT scores can help determine which colleges a student can attend. Students, you should try your best to score as high as possible, but at the same time, don’t worry yourself sick over these tests. Colleges will look at everything from your grades to your personal statement. Some colleges don’t even require standardized test scores.

Parents, keep in mind that many times your son or daughter isn’t just afraid of failing a test, they’re also afraid of disappointing you. Don’t get angry at or guilt trip them when they are trying their best, because that will only make them more distressed.

2) Take breaks

Studying all day won’t help students succeed on their tests. Breaks should be taken every 60-90 minutes.

Some break ideas: students can quick walk, talk to a friend briefly, see what they missed on social media, or get up and stretch. Parents can support taking breaks, or even do one of these activities with the student.

3) Anxiety-Reducing Activities

As part of self-care, or as part of a break, students and even parents can do activities that will help reduce stress and anxiety, together or each individually, such as the following:

  • Meditate. Today, there are many resources for meditating, such Youtube videos or the website/app Headspace. In one Oxford study of Google and Roche employees, the use of Headspace caused a decrease in anxiety and depression. Meditation can help center and calm students and parents, especially when paired with deep-breathing exercises.
  • Exercise. Working out gets endorphins flowing, which can lead to a sense of well-being. It also burns nervous energy and gives fresh air.
  • 4) Do a practice test

    There are practice SAT and ACT tests everywhere. Parents can help with giving students the instructions and timing them. Hopefully, this can help students feel more comfortable with the testing format and boost their confidence if they score well. It can also help highlight weak spots. If the student struggles with the math section but excels with the reading section, then the student knows to concentrate on studying math.

    Free Practice test links:

    SBAC :
    PARCC :
    ACT Aspire :
    FSA :
    LEAP 2025:

    5) Come up with Rewards

    Students, if you have a hard time staying focused on studying, come up with a goal system to reward yourself for studying for the exams or doing a practice test. For example, watch one episode of a TV show you’re enjoying or get a Starbucks drink. Parents can help with setting fair rewards and maybe chip in for the cost.

    6) Find a Clean Workspace

    A messy desk or a room piled with dirty clothes can induce anxiety and affect concentration. To study more effectively, students should consider finding the cleanest or simpliest room in the house that will allow them to focus and be relaxed. Another option is to sit outside or go to the library. Students and parents could also team up to clean the student’s room or another area of the house to make a simple, calming workspace conducive to concentration.

    7) Talk about Feelings

    Students, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or worried, talk to you parent, a trusted friend, or write about it in a journal. It helps to get your feelings out. Find a way to explain your fears and then address them logically one by one.

    8) Get Creative

    Students should take a break by doing something creative and refreshing. They can write in a bullet journal, draw, paint, or do an adult coloring book. But they can’t spend all their time on these!

    Hopefully, these eight strategies will help both parents and students alike cope with the stress of standardized testing season. Remember, for those of you reading: to be patient with each other and express your love to each other, and coping with standardized testing will be much more manageable.


    Kara Paul