3 Tips to Promote Student Confidence in Online Testing

Young schoolgirl in computer class using a laptop with teacher leaning over

As an instructor or administrator that relies on assessments to teach your students and measure their understanding of the material, it’s important that you get valid test results. However, many students perform poorly on online assessments not because they didn’t understand the material but because they were nervous and lacked the confidence to succeed. 

It’s worth your time to give them the best chance to succeed on the test. Prepare them beforehand by teaching them how to manage their anxiety, improve their self-esteem, and educate them on the strategies they can use outside of the classroom to excel. 

Build Students’ Confidence 

It’s not uncommon for instructors to have a student in their class that understands all of the material like the back of their hand. They answer class questions, assist classmates, and attend study hours. However, on the test day, they get nervous and forget everything they learned during the semester. If you have students like that, then as their instructor, you can teach them how to build their confidence so they don’t struggle on the final exam.

There is some evidence which demonstrates that some students feel less stressed in an online testing environment; but this may not be the case for everyone. The signs of stress can be different for everyone. Where some students will experience irritability and agitation, while others will have physical symptoms like headaches and low energy. As an instructor, you can provide individual support by bringing in each student and asking about their stress level and then offer solutions, like writing their feelings in a journal so they can get them out of their system. Other ways of releasing stressful jitters include exercise, meditation, and getting a good night’s sleep on the night of the test. 

Other students may be nervous because they lack self-esteem and fail to believe in themselves on test day, even if they know the material backward and forwards. Advise them of healthy tactics that can improve self-esteem, like teaching them to recognize their skills and reaffirming to themselves that they know the material. Also, many students tend to compare themselves to others and fear they won’t do as well on the test as their classmates. Remind them that all that matters is that they do their best and give it their all.

Help Them To Prepare For The Test

Even if you help your students to build their self-esteem and overcome their stress, it’s still possible that they may freeze up on test day, so help them to prepare by allowing them to practice. Consider setting up a mock assessment on the computer with a format similar to the online exam, with the same formatting and navigation. Send a link to the students so they can log on and go through the motion of the mock test so they can see that there’s nothing to fear.

Another tactic is to be flexible with the time allotted for the exam. When you have a strict time limit for the duration of the test, then that will add stress, and they may buckle under the pressure. If you can extend the testing window even an extra 30 minutes, consider doing so. 

Another option is to allow the test to be open-book or allow collaboration with other students. You don’t want to make it too easy for the students to find the answers. Still, you can modify the test questions so they are encouraged to cite where they found the answers and the resources they used. The test may not be any easier, but if students know they can open and use their text, they may feel more confident when logging onto the assessment.

Other Ways To Prepare

There are other tactics that professors can teach their students to deal with anxiety and gain the necessary confidence come test time, such as encouraging them to consume a healthy diet. It’s amazing just how helpful simply drinking more water can be for test takers. Our brains are roughly 75% water, and drinking before or even during an exam can help because it gives us a “full tank” of sorts, which can help us to think more clearly and improve our focus.

Eating some of the common “brain foods” around test time can also help students to feel relaxed and more prepared. For instance, berries can be a great option because they contain anthocyanins, which are water-soluble pigments that increase blood flow to the brain. Anthocyanins also promote nerve cell production, which is necessary for learning and memory. Eggs are also good because they’re loaded with nutrients, including selenium, which protects against inflammation and promotes brain function.

Instructors can also provide advice on methods to reduce anxiety on test day. Some helpful advice includes:

  • Logging onto the test site early so they’re not rushed;
  • Repeating a confidence-boosting mantra like “I can do this.”
  • Focus on their breathing;
  • Taking the test in a place that’s free of distractions.

You can also tell them about the value of breathing exercises. While there are many that they can try, one of the easiest is called equal breathing. That’s when they breathe in through their nose as they count to four and then exhale for the same four-second count. If they do this routine for about five minutes, they should be able to relax.

As an instructor, you  want your students to excel in your class and move on to bigger and better things, so consider sharing these tips before the big exam. 

If you want to learn more about implementing online testing tools at your school, get in touch with a TAO Solutions Specialist here!


download the case study New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) Adds Technology and Multimedia to Language Proficiency Examswi