There is an ongoing dispute over the role of testing
A study of staff in 40 schools in south-east England found that many children were simply being taught what they needed to hit government targets.
The government said testing was an integral part of learning.
But study skills were being neglected, according to the research by London University's Institute of Education.
Project leader Mary James said: "There is absolutely no doubt that teachers are actually teaching to the tests in various different ways, or coaching children.
"They don't feel they can do anything else."
Prof James said four fifths of the teachers in her study felt they had to give priority to meeting test results targets.
But she said children had to become independent learners if they were going to keep up in a rapidly changing world.
And the two goals could both be met. One school in which the majority of teachers held independent study skills in high regard also had exceptionally high exam results.
"If you concentrate on children learning, the test results improve anyway," Prof James said.
Last month Education Secretary Alan Johnson said the pressure on teachers to get pupils through tests and improve school results should be intensified.
He told the Commons education select committee that league tables were "absolutely the right thing" for raising standards.
A Liberal Democrat member of the committee, Stephen Williams, said the latest research confirmed what teachers and parents had long known: "excessive exams and government targets are damaging the education of our children".
"The government's increased reliance on tests is distorting the priorities of teachers away from providing a broad and relevant education," he said.
But a spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "Testing is an integral part of effective teaching and learning, helping to identify pupils that need extra support as well as those with talents that need to be stretched.
"National curriculum and public examinations are carefully monitored by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to ensure that they test a depth of knowledge that cannot simply be instilled by 'teaching to the test'."
Shadow schools minister Nick Gibb said testing was important.
"We must ensure, however, that the type of tests the exam boards are setting draw out and encourage high-quality teaching, and do not become merely a tick-box exercise in reproducing key words in order to pass," he said."In recent years there has been a drift towards these latter type of exams, which are seen as easier to mark."