What the Bible Says About Standardized Tests

What the Bible Says About Standardized Tests and Test Anxiety

We are smack dab in the middle of standardized test season. I get an email every few days encouraging a healthy breakfast, early bedtimes, and practice tests at home. These days usually pass by the Smith household without much fanfare. I don’t make a big deal out of it and my kids treat it like an ordinary day. This year, however, one of my kids developed test anxiety.

The night before her big test, she started making lists of all the things she needed to have a successful test day. She packed and re-packed her backpack. She paced about from room to room checking her outfit, her iPod, her lunch box. She would lie down in bed and pop right back up again, sure there was something she had forgotten. This was unusual behavior from my c’est la vie kid.

I sat on the edge of her bed and rubbed her back. I asked the standard parent question: What is wrong with you? She described test anxiety without calling it test anxiety.

“I just want to have a good morning. I am worried I will miss the bus. I want a good lunch after working so hard on these tests. These tests count for something now. If I don’t do well, I can’t take the advanced classes. What if I don’t have time to finish? I don’t think I can answer all the math questions.”

She is a very verbal kid, able and willing to spill her guts at a moment’s notice. She historically scores well on standardized tests. My heart hurt for my bright child. She never hesitates to jump into a challenge. She has no fear of questions she can’t answer. Yet, on the eve of her big test, she was shaken by thoughts of “I can’t.”

My first reaction was frustration with “the system.” The pressure they put on students to do well because school rankings and teacher raises are on the line is unfair. Teaching for the test feels like my kids are getting the educational shaft. The build-up must feel like a doomsday march to them. But I am not one to rail on the school system. My kids go to a great school and I accept the testing day as a part of the other 179 good days they have. Testing is a part of life.

Since testing is a part of life, my daughter’s test anxiety presented an opportunity for character development. What do we do when we face a difficult day, one we aren’t sure we are equipped to handle? The only place I knew to find wisdom for my baby girl was in God’s Word.

I reminded her that God will strengthen her.

“Don’t panic. I’m with you.
There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” (Is. 41:10, MSG)

“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1, ESV)

“God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.” (Hab. 3:19, ESV)

I let her know that there is nothing she can do on this test that will change the plan God has for her life.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Prov. 19:21, ESV)

“No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel
can avail against the Lord.” (Prov. 21:30, ESV)

“I know you can do all things,
and that no purpose of your can be thwarted.” (Job 42:1, ESV)

I asked her to give her best, and her best includes a good night’s rest.

“Do your best, prepare for the worst—
then trust God to bring victory.” (Prov 21:31, MSG)

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Col. 3:23, NLT)


What the Bible Says About Standardized Tests and Test Anxiety

This isn’t a conversation about what is right and wrong with the education system or the evils of standardized tests. Our kids will face tests—some with a #2 pencil and some without.

Parents, we must capture these teachable moments that are built into the natural stresses of our children’s lives.

We can use these stressful days as an opportunity to give our kids life wisdom, wisdom that will extend past the test day to guide them as they face trials of all shapes and sizes in the future.

My daughter made it through the test. After our little talk and a prayer, her heavy eyelids gave into the call for rest and closed peacefully. The next morning, she stepped on the big yellow school bus with the confidence that no standardized test can define who she is in Christ. She came home that afternoon with a smile on her face. She did her best and that was enough. We headed to Sonic for high-fives and celebration slushies.

No matter the score we get back in the fall, my girl passed this test with flying colors!

What the Bible Says About Standardized Tests. Helping your child with test anxiety.

Photo credits: Josh Davis via Flickr and Angelina Litvin via Unsplash.


  1. Terri Lynn Beasley April 26, 2016 at 11:14 am

    Ohmygoodness – I love this So much!!! The way you handled this was Inspired, and such a great encouragement and reminder to us – other moms. All the way down to the celebration slushies, you Rock!!! Thank you so much for working hard to be an amazing parent and thank you even more for dedicating your early mornings to share your inspiration and life with us. So many people are benefiting from you and your sweet daughter’s conversation, and that couldn’t have happened without your dedication. I appreciate you So much!!!

  2. These are wonderful reminders!! Both for myself and also for when my daughter is struggling with something. Thank you for sharing such helpful verses. I will be pinning to keep these verses as my reminder. 🙂

  3. Your title caught my eye, beause I’m not a big fan of standardized tests (I’ve seen the results of a test-crazy world in working with a lot of Chinese students who score well on standardized tests to measure their English ability but can’t cobble together a sentence in English to save their lives). I love how you brought out that your daughter’s worth had nothing to do with the test results and how she scores will have no impact on the plans God has for her life. Bravo!

    • Thanks, Anita. You bring up a great example that performance on a test does not always translate into success in life. We know that as adults, but it is so hard for our kids to see it when they are in the middle of a test booklet!

  4. Yes, love this. My boy suddenly has anxiety this time around too and we have addressed it much the same way. Parenting is rough, but so rewarding when we see them come out the other side of a trial. Just imagine how Papa-God feels when he sees us (or our kids) breakthrough! God is good. Wonderful post!

  5. I couldn’t love this more. We have a test anxiety kid as well. It’s such a hard road for her and it’s just a road she has to learn to walk. Her cross to bear I guess. There are worse “crosses” for sure but it’s so hard to see your child struggling to accomplish something you know full well they can accomplish and excel at. I am sharing your post with my daughter and on my fb page. Too good not to share. I hope everyone will do the same!

    • Thank you, Andrea! We can take these standardized tests away from our kids for a season, but at some point, they have to learn how to face them. I am proud of Anna and her courage to keep walking her road!

  6. Love the headline … and the post! I share your feelings about standardized testing and appreciate how you helped your girl combat her anxiety about the whole thing!

  7. This is fantastic Kelly! Thank you for sharing. Your daughter is a lucky little girl to have you as her Mom!! 🙂

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