Taking a test can be unnerving for many students, but especially so for younger children. Whether your student will soon take his first classroom reading exam or a statewide standardized test, fear and uncertainty can impact his performance. Luckily, there are ways to prepare your student for testing that can help him feel more confident and capable. Here are four strategies you can implement when preparing your elementary student for an exam in any subject.
1. Review what she can expect
If this is your child’s first time taking a test, help her understand what it entails. Explain the types of questions that she will face, such as fill in the blank, multiple choice, and matching. If possible, practice answering these question types at home. It can also be useful to discuss which sections of the exam will be timed (if applicable) as well as how to approach them—for example, if there is a question she is unsure of, it may be best to come back to it after she has finished the rest of the test.
2. Find creative ways to build his vocabulary
A great way to help your child prepare for a test is to incorporate vocabulary strengthening into study time. Generally, if your student feels confident in his vocabulary skills, this will help in many academic subjects—including math and science. To do this, encourage him to read often. Read texts with him from a variety of age-appropriate sources, including magazines and newspapers. This will broaden his exposure to new words and their definitions.
Certain games like Jeopardy can also help your student learn new vocabulary words and practice concepts in a fun, stress-free environment. Identify vocabulary areas or subject-specific concepts that he would benefit from improvement in, and incorporate these into your own DIY version of the game.
3. Discuss relaxation techniques with her
Positive testing habits and opinions start early. For this reason, having positive early testing experiences is key. If her first memory of taking a test is stressful, this might be difficult to shake as she progresses through her education. When discussing assessments with your student, talk about coping strategies that can help her relax during this experience. Perhaps she is worried about feeling overwhelmed when she doesn’t know the correct answer to a question. If this is the case, encourage her to take a few deep breaths, count to five, and consider coming back to the question later.
4. Listen to his concerns
If your student has concerns about an assessment, address them directly. As previously discussed, test anxiety can influence performance on an exam, so understand what parts of testing make your child uncomfortable. For instance, perhaps time constraints make him nervous. If so, set aside several hours to practice timed exams, and utilize relaxation techniques if he becomes overwhelmed. After speaking with your child, communicate with his teacher (if necessary) to form a plan for test days.
Taking a test can be intimidating for young students, but gentle support can see your child through the process.
Caitlin Grove is an Associate Content Coordinator for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.