“What is the perimeter of the
figure below, which comprises
a square and an adjoining
n Refer directly to important
points, objects, or events rather
than using pronouns.
n Avoid double negatives,
ambiguous terms, abbreviations,
contractions, acronyms, quota-
tions, and parentheses (Salend,
by surrounding them with white
space or placing them in boxes
with thick, dark borders.
Examine and adjust the linguistic
complexity of the text to make
sure it’s appropriate for students.
To enhance readability,
n Eliminate unnecessary
n Reduce the length of
n Use language that’s familiar
to students and consistent with
terms used in class.
n Employ a tense, sentence
structure, and tone that students
can understand. For example,
Easing Anxiety and
Between 25 and 40 percent
of students may experience
Line length. Because line
lengths can affect reading fluency, present text in line lengths
of approximately four inches.
A four-inch line contains 7–12
When it’s crucial to use more
words to provide the context for
understanding a question (for
items), try to keep word clusters
together on the same line.
“What is the perimeter of the
figure?” is more readable than
aligned text and staggered right
margins. Avoid right-justified
text, which causes uneven word
and letter spacing and makes it
harder to track the flow of text,
and centered text, which slows
reading (Salend, 2009, 2011).
© Image Source/corb IS
words, assuming a 12-point font.
example, in sentence completion
Justification. Use left-justified or
high levels of anxiety that can
There are several online resources
small is difficult to read, and type that’s interfere with their motivation, memory,
that teachers can tap to assess a test’s
too large causes the eye to make exces-
attention, test-taking behaviors, and
readability, such as the Test Accessibil-
test performance (Cassady, 2010).
ity and Modification Inventory (http://
Typefaces/fonts. Choose familiar type-
Teachers can reduce this anxiety and
peabody.vanderbilt.edu/Documents/pdf/ faces or fonts (for example, Times New help learners engage with—and possibly
LSI/TAMI.pdf). In addition, most word- Roman) and avoid mixing fonts. Sans
processing programs include readability serif fonts (such as Arial) are prefer-
formulas and strategies for enhancing a able; they resemble hand lettering and
so boost letter and word recognition.
Avoid text in all capital letters.
Stylistic features for highlighting. Use
Good typographic and visual design
stylistic features such as boldface and
choices increase a test’s legibility and
italics only to highlight brief parts of
support students’ understanding, clarity, sentences (for example, key words)
even enjoy—test-taking by giving clear
directions, using prompts to support
success, and providing students choices
about test items.
Teachers can embed within tests phrases
like “take a deep breath” and related
images, such as a person in a yoga pose,
and speed. I recommend the following
or to focus students’ attention on spe-
to help test takers stay focused, calm,
cific sections. Italics and boldface are
and motivated. Prompts like those
Type size. Use 12- to 14-point type for preferable to underlining, which can
shown in Figure 1 seeded throughout
most test takers and 18-point type (at
cause students to confuse letters (such
a test encourage students to pay atten-
least) for students with visual difficulties as y and v). Draw attention to crucial
tion, ask questions, maintain effort, and
and beginning readers. Type that’s too
aspects of tests, such as the directions,
give themselves positive messages and