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Test Strategies for Students

First, consider your own attitude regarding the test:

Do you, as a parent or teacher, treat the test as the be-all and end-all? Do you send the unspoken message that a child is “good” or “bad” depending on his or her performance? If you are honest with yourself, you can work to temper some of your own anxieties and instead promote a positive message – the test, while an important measure of achievement, is just one facet of the total child. Focus on helping children prepare the best they can. Convey the idea that their effort and hard work will pay off.

Understand the consequences of stress:

Needless worry can prove not only to be wasted energy, but also could have an adverse effect on overall performance. Some studies have shown that undue amounts of stress can lead to negative side effects, including sleep disturbances, lack of appetite, and even temporary memory loss!

Acknowledge your child’s feelings:

Just knowing that you care and understand can lessen anxious feelings. On the other hand, if you dismiss or minimize your child’s concerns, he or she may feel ignored or abnormal for experiencing these emotions.

Talk your child through the fear:

Sometimes, discussing the worst-case scenario can actually help allay a child’s worries. If, for instance, your child fears that doing poorly on the test will lead to retention, you can easily put your child at ease with the message that this will not happen. Sometimes a child fears the unknown, but once he or she understands what really will or will not happen, the worries disappear!

Help your child feel prepared:

Do whatever you can to give your child a sense of efficacy. This can take many forms: assist your son or daughter with test-taking strategies, work through practice problems, help the child understand the directions (especially the vocabulary), and focus on your child’s academic strengths. If you feel that this falls outside your comfort zone, consider practice books and/or tutoring to build your child’s skill set. With increased confidence, your son or daughter will feel ready and able to tackle the test!

As a teacher, look for ways to prepare students properly without becoming test-obsessed:

If you have focused on content standards throughout the year, you can rest assured that you have already been preparing your students. In the months prior to the test, help build independence in children by giving them directions similar to the test, familiarize them with the vocabulary and format of the assessment, and give them opportunities to practice problems in a timed format. All of these measures will ease a child’s fear of the unknown and build test-taking confidence.