I must say first off that I never liked taking tests in school. No matter how prepared I was, or thought I was, there was still anxiety over exposing my ignorance and subsequently being judged on it (also known as grading). So I totally sympathize with my boys when they are stressing over a test. Not only that, I know it even when they don't tell me they're having a test that day.
This is not because I'm a highly sensitive, super-tuned in Mom, sensing anxiety in my children and knowing instinctively what's causing it (though wouldn't that be nice?)
No, they make it easy on me. When Ben has a test, I know because he arrives at the breakfast table dressed in black from head to toe, as if heading to a funeral. His own? Not likely, in third grade, though I'm sure test days feel that way to him. As one who wears his heart on his sleeve, he doesn't shy away from wearing his hatred of all things academic there too. I try to think of it like PMS: an early warning system that tells me right away to tread carefully.
Jacob, on the other hand, has seemingly inherited some ostrich blood from somewhere in his ancestral history. It's easy to know when he's got a test because he burrows under the covers, moaning and whining and refusing to get out of bed, as if ignoring the day will make it go away. I'm sure my whole family wishes this would work when I'm suffering from PMS, and I certainly remember the days of client presentations when I knew I'd be getting up to speak in front of a crowd. It was test day at school all over again. At least I had the incentive of a paycheck to keep me from hiding under the covers.
When the boys were younger and would get upset about something, the power of distraction was my greatest tool for calming them down. Maybe my memory of that is why now, when they get testy with me because of some school issue even before breakfast, I fall back on it.
"Oh, did we get up on the wrong side of the bed today?"
"Can it, Mom."
"My my, such a bad temper so early in the morning. That can't be good. Do you have a challenging day ahead?"
"So, do you want waffles or banana bread for breakfast?"
Granted, it doesn't always work, and at those times I just point out that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, blah, blah, blah, let's warm your belly, etc. etc.
I can't study for them, I can't make the tests go away, and I can't tell them to go get a job instead, if they really hate school that much. But what I can do is offer, as only a mom can, a little support and comfort before they head out into the cold, cruel world. Preferably topped with syrup.