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How to Beat Test Anxiety

Updated on September 13, 2023
Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul has spent many years teaching English as a foreign and second language. He has taught EFL in Taiwan and Thailand, and ESL in the U.S.

Thai Students Taking a Test


Overcoming Test Anxiety

All students must take tests as part of the educational assessment process. Every year students must sit through long mid-term and final exams as well as periodic unit tests. For many young people, this is an experience of great anxiety. Let's face it. Most kids today don't know how to study and review for a test. Reviewing and studying are dull and not cool. Therefore, when the test date arrives, many students are on edge because they don't have confidence that they will pass the test. An enjoyable way of test preparation using team competition review games goes a long way in helping students enthusiastically get ready for the big test. As an EFL teacher in Thailand, I have used review games to prepare my pupils for tests. In this article, I illustrate my use of team competition review games in helping my fifth-grade students prepare for mid-term tests.

Why Students Suffer Test Anxiety

Most students suffer from test anxiety because they have no idea about what to expect on their tests. In some cases, the teacher expects the students to already know based on what was covered in class. That's fine if the student is paying attention in class. The reality is that many students aren't connected with the teacher and their assignments because they are talking to their neighbors or distracting themselves in other ways. Students also have no idea about the kinds of questions they will be expected to answer. Will the questions be an essay, matching, fill-in-the-blank, or multiple-choice? Because students have no clue what will be on the test, they don't know where to start in reviewing and studying. Preparing for a test then becomes very boring and not cool. Couldn't this time be better spent chatting on Facebook or playing Internet games?

Beneficial Aids to Students for Test Review

It is incumbent on teachers to assist students, especially the younger ones, review and preparing for tests. Most students don't know how to review and study for a test. Their parents, for the most part, are too busy to help them get ready for an exam. Teachers can do this by first communicating to the students and parents of the students what will be on the test and the types of questions kids can expect to see. Second, teachers should show students in class how to study and review for a test. This should include making sure all students outline the main points that will be tested and write down examples of the concepts that will most probably appear on the test. Third, the teacher must organize a fun test review with team games to engage all students in the review and study process.

Team Game Activities for Test Review

Nothing more than a competitive group game stimulates the interest of most young people. In my EFL classrooms, I have successfully used team games to review topics appearing on tests. Around the middle of December 2012, my fifth-grade EFL students took their mid-term exams. My school had already notified the students and their parents that the following topics would be on the exam: simple past tenses of irregular verbs; personal possessive pronouns; reordering of the sequence of exchanges in a dialogue; writing dates with ordinal numbers; and the use of correct vocabulary. In my classroom periods with students, I utilized the following team games in reviewing the following test topics:

1. Writing Sentences with the Past Simple Form of Verbs

My students already know that they will be given a verb on the test and then expected to write a sentence using the past simple verb form. If my whiteboard is big enough, one member from the four teams comes and takes an assigned position on the board. The teacher then says and writes a verb on the board that the students have already learned. Next, the students must use the past simple form of the verb to compose a sentence. The team which writes a sentence the fastest and with no errors gets a point. Different team members then come to the board for a second round. This process is continued until all team members have participated in the game.

2. Reordering the Correct Sequence of Exchanges in a Dialogue

In this activity, students are broken into three or four teams. Three or four teams with three members from each team come and take their assigned positions on the board. Each team is then given an 8-10 sentence scrambled dialogue written on a piece of paper which it must reorder correctly. Team members work together and write the correct reordered sequence of exchanges on the board. The team which finishes this task the fastest and with no errors wins and is awarded a point.

3. Writing Dates with Ordinal Numbers

Students are broken into four teams. One member from each of the three teams comes to the board. A member of the fourth team also comes to the board and selects any date, writing it on the whiteboard. For example, the student might write 12-1-2012. The other team members then write the correct date spelling out the correct month and ordinal number. For example, 12-1 should be written: December first. The team writing the date the fastest and with no errors wins the round. The game continues with a second round in which team members are rotated. Different teams also have the chance to send a member to write a numerical date for other teams to spell out.

4. Use of Vocabulary

The class is divided into two teams that stand in two lines facing each other in the classroom. A member of each team directly across from each other in line then faces off and is given a word to spell and use in oral sentence construction. The student performing this task correctly first wins the round and continues standing. The student on the losing team sits down. All students face off in this competition.

5. Use of Personal Possessive Pronouns

In this game, a member of the four teams comes to the board. On the board are the nine personal possessive pronouns: your, yours, my, mine, his, her, hers, their, and theirs. When the teacher says to begin, team members select one of the pronouns and use it to compose a sentence. The student who composes a correct sentence the fastest wins the round and a point. The game continues until all team members have participated.

6. Modified Jeopardy

I often use a modification of the Jeopardy game in my review sessions. The way I do it is by first selecting for categories the subjects on which the students will be tested. If we have been studying pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and nouns, for example, these will be the categories and there will be different questions ranging from easy to extremely hard for each category. Each question will also have a certain point value. Two teams compete and members of each team work together to answer selected questions within a set time limit.

The use of test review games can turn an ordinary boring class into a very exciting, worthwhile class. Weak and robust students are included on all teams, and it has been my experience that the stronger students have helped the weaker students during a review. Students participating in test review games have also scored higher on tests than the ones who have not taken part.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn


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