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schoolTeach Test-Taking Strategies for High School Students

Teach Test-Taking Strategies for High School Students

Test anxiety and stress is real, and it’s a real detriment to student performance. In the study, Testing, Stress, and Performance: How Students Respond Physiologically to High-Stakes Testing, researchers found that changes in students’ cortisol levels (the stress hormone) correlated with decreased test performance – especially in students who were exposed to chronic stress outside of school.

Teachers like you can help your students with test stress by preparing them for what they’ll see and do. Here are some ideas, methods, and resources that you can use when teaching test-taking strategies for high school students.

6 Ways to Teach Test-Taking Strategies for High School Students

Directly teach test-taking strategies in class.

Take the time to build a test prep lesson or unit into your class curriculum. By explicitly tackling this topic, students will have the opportunity to be frank about their questions and needs when it comes to test-taking. Not only will your students use these test tips and skills in your classroom, but they will also use them throughout their high school and college careers, making this a worthwhile lesson to include in your class. 

Test-taking tips and strategies shown in script font on top of scantron

Test Taking Tips and Strategies by Making Meaning with Melissa

Grades: 8-11

Asian-American student shown smiling above the words "close reading"

Close Reading Strategies, Techniques, & Tips: A Practical Guide for High School by GilTeach

Grades: 9-12

Encourage students to adopt a growth mindset around tests and exams.

A recent study by the Society for Research in Child Development shows that when students receive a lower grade, their cortisol levels also spike. For some students, these levels return back to normal over the next day or so, but for others, the spike in cortisol persists and can make it hard for students to process and overcome the setback. As Edutopia notes, a growth mindset — or the belief that your abilities and success can be improved with time and effort — can help with overcoming this stress. Use these activities and resources to help instill a growth mindset and positive attitude in your secondary students before, during, and after taking tests.

Clipart of African-American student with growth mindset, test taking strategies activities

Growth Mindset Activities by Queen’s Educational Resources

Grades: 7-12

Includes Google Apps™

Growth mindset state exam goals activities shown with resource pages and clipart brain with gears

Growth Mindset State Exam Data Analysis and Goals Activity by Ms Social Studies Teacher

Grades: 6-12

Pro Tip: You can also encourage students’ adoption of a growth mindset when giving feedback and report card comments, or when students are struggling.

Incorporate student independence and fun into your test prep. 

The best learning often takes place when students feel involved and invested. Engage high school students in test preparation the same way you’d engage them in other learning — through fun and independence. Make test prep less daunting by turning it into a game, or allow students to explore their own interests while prepping by giving them choices through task cards. 

Teal door with big lock shown with the text AP Literature Exam Preparation Escape Room

AP Literature and Composition Test Preparation Updated Escape Room Game by Lattes and Lit

Grades: 11-12

Colorful ELA Task Cards shown against bright blue background

High School ELA Task Cards (Common Core Aligned) by J Shannon Literacy

Grades: 6-12

Address students’ anxiety and stress head-on with holistic test-taking tips and mindfulness techniques.

The International Journal of Adolescence and Youth has found that: “The ongoing stress relating to education has demonstrated negative impact on students’ learning capacity, academic performance, education and employment attainment, sleep quality and quantity, physical health, mental health and substance use outcomes. Increasing students’ stress-management skills and abilities is an important target for change.” Be part of the change by being transparent about the impact of anxiety and stress and by giving your high school students test-taking strategies to manage it.

Anxiety and test prep teen brochures shown on a wood table

Anxiety and Test Prep Brochures for Teens by The Counseling Teacher Brandy

Grades: 9-12

Mindfulness test taking strategies for students shown on computer and tablet

Social Emotional Learning activity | Mindfulness lesson for Taking Tests by Adventures in ISTEM

Grades: 5-12

Have students practice standardized test formats through class assignments and assessments.

The assignments and assessments that you use in class can also be test prep for standardized tests.  Incorporate vocabulary lessons into your daily bellwork, or mimic the type of questions students will see on national or state exams. This can include short answer, true or false, compare and contrast, long form writing, and multiple choice questions. By familiarizing students with the test questions and content they’ll see, your students will feel less intimidated by these standardized tests.

White first page of SAT and ACT vocab test prep

SAT ACT Unit 2 Spelling & Vocabulary Activities/Assessment by LITERATURE AND LANGUAGE smARTS

Grades: 7-12


Blue composition notebook graphic with AP US Government Test Bundle as the title

AP® Government Exams Bundle- 8 Tests Total by Holly’s Social Studies Store

Grades: 9-12

Book title Just Mercy against a black ground

Just Mercy Test by Barraug Books and Curriculum

Grades: 9-12

Some in-class tests are timed, and almost all standardized testing is timed. So, it’s important that students know how to use the tools they have to maximize their time. In addition, many tests have gone digital in the last few years, so students should learn how to use tech to their test-taking advantage and become familiar with keyboard shortcuts and typing tips. After all, every second counts!

Gray cheatsheet of Chromebook shortcuts


Not Grade Specific


Find more test-taking strategies and resources to support your high school students’ learning and growth in the TPT Catalog.

This blog post, originally published in 2022, has been updated for 2023.

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