Taming Your Child’s Test Anxiety

Published on September 27, 2019

The dropping temperatures may be an unwelcome sign that winter is almost here. The increased anxiety that many kids feel this time of year is a definite sign that tests and exams are not far off. What can you do as a parent to tame your child’s test anxiety?

Perhaps the most important strategies your child can develop are to improve study habits, as well as test-taking skills during the exam. These changes often help children develop greater confidence.

Prior to the Exam

Know the Exam Format: Finding out the format of the exam in advance can help a child feel more confident as there will be fewer surprises when taking the exam. Will the exam include essays, short-answer questions or multiple-choice questions or a combination of any of these?

Think About Possible Questions. Predicting which questions will be on the exam and answering them ahead of time tends to help children master what they have learned, as well as increasing their confidence. For example, you child can predict what the topics will be on essay exams and practise writing the answers in advance.

Reorganise the Material. Help your child identify the main ideas that have been taught recently. Your child can then create an outline of the major issues and consider the themes that unite these issues. This active approach to studying helps your child think about the material they have learned in a different way from how it was presented, which gives your child a deeper understanding of it. As a result, your child will be less likely to become frustrated by the exam questions, increasing your child’s confidence as a result.

During the Exam

In addition to preparing well for exams, having strategies when answering questions is an important approach to reducing anxiety.

Develop a Plan: The following basic test-taking strategies are likely to help reduce your child’s test anxiety:

  • Not spending too much time on any one question.
  • If questions are multiple-choice, reading each answer and then crossing out the ones that are not correct will help narrow the choices.
  • Picking one answer and sticking with it - We all have the tendency to second guess ourselves, resulting in wasted time and wrong answers.

Do Something Different: Helping your child change the typical approach to answering questions can help when panic sets in. For example, when your child becomes frustrated by a challenging question, skipping to another part of the test can help your child shift focus to questions that can be answered more easily.

Accept That Nobody Knows Everything: Help your child to keep in mind that nobody knows everything and that we all get answers wrong. When your child is unable to answer a question, encourage your child to move on to the next one.


Category(s):Anxiety, Child and/or Adolescent Issues

Written by:

Andrew Adler, Ph.D.

Andrew Adler, Ph.D. is the director of the Adler Family Centre and the Honorary Consultant (Psychology) at OUHK-LiPACE. He is a licensed psychologist in New York State (US) and has specialised in evaluating and treating a wide range of psychological difficulties for the past 20 years. He earned doctoral and master degrees in clinical psychology from Yale University after graduating Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. He taught at Yale University and supervised medical students as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at New York Medical College. In his work in hospitals, clinics and private practice, Dr. Adler has evaluated and treated the full range of psychological difficulties experienced by children, adolescents, adults and their families. Prior to moving to Hong Kong, he was a psychologist in Shanghai for three years, treating and assessing children and adolescents, both expats and local residents.

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