Test-taking tips to help students succeed

Published on Monday, March 18, 2013

PencilTest-taking can be a stressful time for students:  their routines are disrupted, the tests themselves are tedious, and the stakes can be high.  One bad day for students can lead to lost funding, increased oversight, and dramatic restructuring for schools.  It’s hard for students not to feel anxious.  But there are things parents can do to help make testing less stressful for their children.  These strategies are as effective on annual exams as they are on their weekly math quiz. 

Get a good night’s sleep.  Studies show that when children are well-rested, they perform better on exams.  Make sure your child goes to sleep at a reasonable hour and that distractions like televisions and computer games are turned off. 

Eat a healthy breakfast.  It’s important that children eat a nutritious breakfast every day, but it’s especially helpful on test days.  If they usually eat just cereal for breakfast, consider adding a protein such as eggs or peanut butter to help them maintain their energy and stay focused.

Relax before the exam.  Remind your children to do the best they can on the exams but not to be frightened by the experience.  Let them know that the tests are designed to challenge their thinking, so some questions – but not all of them – will be hard. 

Listen to directions.  Some tests have very specific requirements and they can change section to section.  Remind your child to listen carefully and ask their teacher questions if they don’t understand the directions. 

Take it slow.  There are always a few students who view tests as a race to finish first.  Remind your children that their job as a student is to always do the best they can and not to worry about what other students are doing. 

Review.  Before handing the test in, students should go back over it and review their work.  In the case of electronically-graded tests, students should be sure that their answers are correctly recorded. 

Do something active after school.  After school, students should participate in activities that help them relieve stress.  If you can, take your children to the park and play soccer or have a catch.  Go for a walk or bike ride together.  You will be able to get your children talking about their day and give them an opportunity to recharge after a long day pushing a number two pencil. 

Once the scores come in, students should be reminded that they are just a snapshot of a point in time and they shouldn’t be overly concerned about their personal results.  They should also be reminded not to compare themselves to other students in their class.  Annual tests don’t measure every subject and your children’s talents may be evaluated in different ways. 

If you have any questions about annual exams or other tests, contact your children’s teachers.  They are your partners in ensuring that your children receive a great education.  When families and teachers work together, our children are the winners.

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