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.
Taking a standardized test is an entirely different beast from the regular day in and day out of your child’s school day. It can feel intimidating to some students, causing worry and anxiety. However, the great thing about standardized testing is how predictable it is! Your child can easily learn what to expect. The following concepts touch on how to explain standardized testing to your young student.
1. Question formats
The types of questions on standardized tests are fairly reliable and usually include multiple-choice, true-or-false, and short-answer questions, and sometimes, longer essays. Depending on the test, you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with it first by asking your child’s teacher about its details. Talk your child through different types of questions, especially ones he hasn’t experienced before on quizzes or tests in his regular schoolwork. Tell your child to read the directions and questions carefully, identifying keywords that will tell him what to look for in an answer or a reading passage. Students should also read all the answer choices before choosing what they believe is the correct one, in case there’s an answer choice later in the list that ends up working slightly better.
2. Time limits
Discuss with your child how timing works for standardized tests; they often are timed by subject and/or section. While the teacher or proctor will more than likely keep time on the blackboard (or if the test is electronic, there will likely be a timekeeper on the computer), students will have to understand how to pace themselves. Talk to your child about how to use her time effectively and wisely, perhaps by answering the easier questions first and coming back to the harder ones later. This will prevent her from wasting a chunk of time on a tougher question that she could be using answering simpler ones. Your child can always go back later to questions that she skipped and make an educated guess if needed. If the test has essay questions, talk with your child about planning her writing in the form of bullet points or a quick outline before beginning to actually write the essay.
3. Changes in schedule
You should receive information from your child’s teacher or principal about the change in schedule for the testing week(s). Discuss this with your child so he knows what to expect. You might also want to figure out whether your child will have any homework due on top of this (it will likely be a light load, but are there any reading assignments or long-term projects your child should still be working on?). Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep the night before and eats a healthy breakfast the morning of the test.
4. Test prep
The standardized test is likely to align with your child’s regular curriculum somewhat, but not completely. If the test is district-wide, ask your child’s teacher how students will be prepared for the test, or ask for test prep ideas that your child can work through at home. Decide what will make you and your child feel comfortable and prepared for the test. Moreover, some standardized-test companies provide practice tests, which are great resources to help your child become familiar with how the test-taking experience will actually feel.
5. Understanding results
Test results can often seem mysterious and difficult to decode. The positive is they often don’t have any impact on your child’s subject grades. Your child’s teacher or principal can help you interpret your child’s scores, as well as what you can take away from them (perhaps the score report will indicate your child’s strengths and weaknesses, for instance). Discuss with your child the point system and what the percentiles mean, as well.
Standardized testing doesn’t have to be scary for you or your child. Familiarize yourself with the test format itself and ask around if you have questions, consulting with teachers and fellow parents. All of this will help your child get used to this system early on, before encountering it several more times in her school career.
Lisa Low is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.