Whether your kid is freaking out about a spelling quiz or the SAT, these strategies can help her ease anxiety and do her best.

By Laura Asmundsson
Updated January 18, 2018
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On our way to school, my 12-year-old daughter briskly walked ahead of me with a creased forehead and grimly lined mouth. After rolling her eyes at my cheerful chattering, she finally came out with it. In first-period band class, she would be assessed on the 12 major scales. Just like any other test, this was freaking her out.

Whether it’s over an easy vocab quiz or an AP calculus exam, test anxiety can rear it fanged head at any time, regardless of the academic stakes.

But by adding a few simple steps to your kid’s regular study routine, you can keep the test-taking demons at bay, says Eli Stein, the director of academic counseling at LogicPrep, a tutoring company based in New York, “There’s less stress when you’re calm and prepared, so be a proactive partner with your child.”

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Cramming a unit’s worth of information into one night of studying is a recipe for stress. Instead, encourage a regularly-paced method of reading and reviewing. Frequently check in to see what your child is currently studying in history, for example. “You don’t want to find out that she doesn’t know what happened in the Civil War the night before her exam,” Stein points out.

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Conjugating irregular French verbs in the future tense may seem like just another hurdle to get through the school year—until you point out the wonderful uses of knowing a foreign language, like being able to fluently order from a menu in a Paris bistro. “Make it less about how well they do, and more about how well they’ve learned,” says Stein.

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Standardized exams such as the SAT and ACT are long, requiring a regimen of strategy and stamina, so plan as if your child is training for a marathon. Make sure he’s taken a few practice tests during his prepping time, so he can spot his mistakes and weak areas, readjust his tactics, and build up his endurance, advises Stein. Regular practice also helps for smaller, in-class tests just as effectively, Stein points out.

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He’s completed all of his assignments, he’s reviewed and practiced, so now it’s time to relax. Before your child falls asleep, suggests Stein, have him picture the test going smoothly: He’s carefully taking his time on each question, checking his answers and confidently filling in the last question. “Believing you’re going to do well goes a long way,” says Stein.

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After a nutritious and filling breakfast, help your kid get organized for the day. Remind her to make sure pencils have erasers and are sharpened, calculator batteries are checked, and that she's got a healthy snack and water bottle packed. Send your child out of the house early, to ensure she’ll arrive on time and won’t feel rushed. Remind her to take a deep breath. She’s prepared, she’s ready and she’s going to do great. Let’s do this!