If you enter a classroom where an exam is about to take place, you will most likely see a lot of the same things. Students reading, writing, pacing, biting their nails. An exam can be a very stressful thing. Some tests, such as SATs or APs can count for a lot, and it isn't strange to be nervous. However, there are ways that the classroom can be made to be less stressful. These suggestions are in no particular order. Feel free to arrange them however you like.
Before the test is even handed out and before that day even arrives there is a lot you can do as an educator to relieve stress among your students. Instruct them to not overdo the studying a day before a big exam. Tell them to get at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, and eat a healthy breakfast. It makes a big difference in any student's performance.
Set it up in rows, even if it is usually set up otherwise. Rows are ideal for testing, and they help students achieve a test-like mindset. Think “educational fang shui”. The classroom's colors also makes a big difference. Studies have shown that light shades of blue and purple are best for those sitting an exam. The traditional white walls give an “institution” sort of feeling, and is discouraged in an exam room, in spite of its popularity.
Students may become very anxious. Make sure to talk to your students about exam anxiety and ways of avoiding it. Assure them that blackouts happens, and discuss ways of dealing with it.
Make sure to filter out any unnecessary noise or distractions. A quiet environment is critical for the student's mind to function properly. Creativity, problem-solving, and memory are all made possible through concentration. Help to provide that space where students are able to think.
Don’t project a timer on the wall or computer screen. While this may be beneficial for some students, it will unnerve a great deal of them, and may cause them higher anxiety than the one they had to begin with. You could end up doing more bad than good, so consider leaving the clock elsewhere, and simply call out the times.