How to Overcome Test Anxiety on ESL Students

Every ESL teacher wants their students to perform well on tests and pass the course with flying colors. Really, of course, often divert from expectations. Even the brightest students can fail miserably on tests.

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One of the reasons is that ESL students find tests intimidating. This is especially true if the ESL course is a part of their work requirements. Such test anxiety can affect their test result as they cannot perform their best.

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To reduce test anxiety on ESL students, teachers could do the following simple things:

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Do more than attending classes

Attending classes is only a small part of learning. When you want students to master English you need to encourage them to polish those English skills everywhere. Speak English whenever they can. Use English when they write in their journals or diaries. Encourage them to find English-speaking forums covering the topics they enjoy then ask and answer questions. All these activities will prepare them for tests much more than simply attending classes.

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“But most of my students don’t even attend every class. Their work keeps them…”

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Don’t be disheartened. Like we just said, they can polish their English anywhere. If you feel some students have been absent too much, tell them to compensate by practicing their English actively outside of class.

Explain the test structure

When you prepare for one type of test and presented with a completely different one, anxiety is unavoidable. As a teacher, it’s your duty to let the students know what to expect.

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Will the test contain multiple choices, essay, or both? Is there any listening involved? Which subjects will the test cover? Lay everything upfront so students can prepare better.

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For instance, if the test involves correcting spelling and grammar mistakes in a paragraph. Give them mock exams to learn at home. That way they can use tools such as the online spelling and grammar checker to see if they already got the hang of it or not.

Have them put everything into perspective

Nobody wants to fail a test but failing isn’t exactly the end of the world. When you weigh things bigger than they actually are, you’re feeding your anxiety even further. Make sure students understand this before they take the test.

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Test results are not the be-all and end-all for ESL students. If your students can communicate using English fluently at work and in the environment where they need English, then they’re doing alright.

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