Sweaty palms? Check. Racing heart? Yep. A bad case of butterflies in the stomach? You bet. It must be test time. Many students struggle with exam anxiety, but those feelings of panic and dread can be even worse for struggling readers and English learners. Here are a few simple strategies you can use to help your students relax and get ready to ace those tests:

Parental Preparations
Keeping parents informed about upcoming tests can help your students get the support they need at home to be at their very best in the classroom. Send out an email at least a week before testing starts to let parents know when their students will be taking tests and how they can help by encouraging kids to get plenty of sleep and eat good, nutritious meals. Well-rested minds and well-fed bodies will help students stay calm and focused during test time.

Relaxing Rituals
Use these five tips to help students prepare for testing in the weeks leading up to the big day (or week). Then use the following techniques to help your class relax and focus right before they pick up their pencils:

Deep Breathing

  1. Have students sit up straight in their chairs.
  2. Using a calm voice, instruct students to inhale through their nose, and then hold their breath for one or two seconds.
  3. Invite students to exhale slowly through their mouths as you count to three.
  4. Wait a few seconds before repeating the cycle.

Tense and Relax

  1. Ask students to sit up straight in their chairs with their feet flat on the floor. Have them grab the edge of their seats with both hands.
  2. Instruct students to pull up with their hands as they push down with their feet, keeping their whole bodies tense as you count to five slowly.
  3. Have students relax in their seats as you count to five slowly.
  4. Repeat the procedure two or three times.


  1. Ask students to close their eyes and gently (it’s important that they not press too hard) place their palms over their eyes.
  2. Invite students to think of a relaxing scene, either real or imaginary. They could picture themselves in their backyard looking at clouds, or maybe even on the moon looking down at the earth.
  3. Have students hold the image of their relaxing scene in their minds as they sit quietly for one or two minutes. At the end of the exercise, have students slowly open their eyes and take a deep breath.

How do you help students relax before test time? Please share your tips in a comment below!