Helping children feel comfortable with tests

Assessments play a vital role in teaching and learning. Helping pupils feel comfortable with assessments enables them to perform to their full potential in a more pressurised situation. Here we outline things to consider when preparing pupils for assessment.

How to successfully administer tests
Like most things in life, preparation is key when it comes to successfully administering a test. Beforehand, think through and determine the answers to the following important questions:

  • How much time should you allow for the test?
  • Is a break necessary or appropriate? If so, how long should it be and how should you manage it?
  • What equipment is needed? (e.g. calculators, rulers, erasers, dictionaries, lined paper)
  • What will be your response if a pupil asks a question during the test?

Your answers are likely to depend on the age of the test-takers. For example, key stage 1 children may require more assistance than key stage 2 pupils. They’re also likely to need shorter test periods, or a break during the test. If pupils can read a clock, you might find it helpful to explain how long the test will be and give countdowns to the class throughout the test. Read our full guide to getting ready for tests


Access arrangements
The purpose of access arrangements is to ensure that there is a ‘level playing field’ for all test-takers. This means that no pupil should be disadvantaged by a feature of the test requirements that is not part of the construct (e.g. a skill, ability or understanding) being assessed by a test.

One frequently used access arrangement (also known as an accommodation) is additional time. Although it can be very helpful for some children it is worth bearing in mind that it can actually be unhelpful for others. If you know that specific children need more time than is typical to complete work, and are provided with this in their day-to-day class work, then it can be appropriate to allow them more time to complete a test. This can be contentious if the test is ‘speeded’ i.e. speed is identified as an element that is relevant to performance. On the other hand, for a pupil who is struggling, simply providing more time will not necessarily enable them to perform any better. It may in fact just create a difficult situation when other children have finished and the pupil in question is expected to continue whilst struggling.


Familiarise pupils with assessments
Before a test begins it may be appropriate (unless otherwise stated in the teacher administration guide) to offer some practice questions to familiarise pupils with the types of question they will be asked. Another way to prepare pupils for different types of test questions is to integrate some test familiarisation into teaching. This can both help pupils feel comfortable with the types of question that appear in tests and aid learning. This may be particularly useful in the primary stage when pupils are unfamiliar with written assessments.

NFER’s termly optional tests are available in the core subjects for use across years 1-6. Developed by a team of assessment experts with teaching backgrounds and standardised with over 60,000 pupils, they enable you to:

  • benchmark your results nationally
  • confidently monitor attainment and progress
  • make accurate comparisons between pupils and groups of pupils
  • gain formative information to guide teaching and learning
  • quickly and easily interpret your data with a free online analysis tool.