Confidence trumps test anxiety

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

The holidays are over, 2009 is here and the second half of your child's school year has begun.

Now is the time to ask some serious questions. Is my child on track and learning? How will I know if my child will be ready for the next grade level? What can I do at home to help?

For answers to these questions, your first source is your child's school and teacher. Most likely you have received at least one report card and met with your child's teacher. You probably have a good handle on what your child needs to learn this school year and progress made so far. If you don't, set up a meeting now with your child's teacher.

Ask teachers how they know your child is learning. Do the teachers use daily or weekly quizzes? Does testing occur at the end of a unit or every 9 weeks? Will your child be ready to succeed on the Ohio Achievement Tests (OAT)?

The OAT is given to students in grades 3 through 8. In 2009, these state achievement tests will be given between April 20 and May 8. The subjects by grade that will be tested are:

  • Grade 3: Reading, Mathematics
  • Grade 4: Reading, Mathematics, Writing
  • Grade 5: Reading, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies
  • Grade 6: Reading, Mathematics
  • Grade 7: Reading, Mathematics, Writing
  • Grade 8: Reading, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies

For nearly everyone, the word "test" causes some level of anxiety. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines anxiety, in part, as "an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked ... by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it."

Confidence is key to overcoming anxiety. Knowledge, attitude and practice are components in building confidence. Families play an important role in helping children develop confidence.

Using sports as an example, you take your child to practices to learn the rules about the sport. Your child continually repeats the skills needed to play. You cheer for your child, encouraging success. When the game is over, all of the parents celebrate their children's success and, when defeated, encourage them to practice and try again.

You can do the same with your child to help overcome test anxiety. Knowledge, attitude and practice are the keys. The Ohio Department of Education offers several resources to help families and students prepare for state tests.

First, share with your children what they are expected to learn and do this school year. You can find this information in Standards Guide for Families: What's Expected, an online publication for each grade, by going to On the front page, enter "Standards Guides for Families" in the search engine in the upper right corner.

Read and download the information for the grades of your children. Discuss the information in the Standards Guide and find out from your children what they feel they know and what they do not. Confirm this information with your children's teachers. Ask about ways you can support your children in building confidence by learning the content they need to know for state tests.

Then, make sure you and your child understand the test itself and how questions will look on the OAT. Have your child take practice tests. Practice builds confidence and reduces anxiety.

You can learn more about the OAT by going to, which features a section for families at the bottom of the front page. In that section is a link titled "Statewide Testing Web Site."

Access the OAT, which contains three parts: What's Expected; Practice Tests; and Understanding Test Results. You will find two more links to Frequently Asked Questions and Resources for Families and Educators.

Understanding the subject being tested, practicing actual questions and seeing answers take the mystery out of tests. Knowledge builds confidence and reduces test anxiety.

As parents, it's important for us to show our children we believe in them. This belief builds and reinforces their confidence. Notice what your children are learning and praise them. When they are struggling, encourage them. Tell them that you believe they are smart and can learn.

Let your children know that their teachers are teaching what they need to know. Tell your children when they have learned information that will be on the test. Let them know that everyone is nervous on tests. Tell them to think positively because attitude builds confidence and reduces test anxiety.

Knowledge, attitude and practice are the keys. Believe in your children. They will learn. Encourage them and watch them succeed!

Patti Grey is an ombudsman and public liaison for the Ohio Department of Education.

Carol Kuhman is a public information officer in the Communications Office at the Ohio Department of Education.