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Tame the Test-Taking Butterflies

Does your kid stress before a big test? Worrying about doing well on a test can do a number on your child’s tummy and their test performance. Try these helpful strategies to help prepare your child for big tests, alleviate stress and put their feelings in perspective.

Stay on top of it

Encourage your child to maintain good study habits. Provide a quiet, well-lit area with little distractions to help your child stay on task. Make sure your child keeps up with daily homework. Cramming the night before a test adds more stress that usually leads to less learning. Explain to them it is important to learn the information at the pace the teacher has given to the class.

If your child does not have a clear understanding of homework assignments before leaving class, explain to them they should speak with their teacher for a better understanding. Not knowing what their homework is or how to complete it, a child could easily fall behind and receive lower test scores.

Test-taking tips

Here’s a list of important strategies for your kid to know and remember when taking a test. Review them with your child. Have them handy for easy reference prior to an exam:

  • Read directions and every possible answer - the best one could be the last one.

  • Focus on one question at a time rather than thinking about the whole test.

  • Reread questions and answers when there is any doubt.

  • Try to get the correct answer by reasoning and eliminating wrong answers.

  • If you don’t know an answer to a question, skip it for the time being. Come back to it later if you have time, but always answer the question. A question left unanswered is always wrong, but even a guess may be correct.

  • Don’t worry about how fast others finish their test - concentrate on your own performance. You’re not being graded on how quickly you complete the test, but by how many answers you get correct.

A good start

Now that your child has done all their homework and is prepared for the test, the next most important thing they need is a good night’s sleep. Make sure they get to bed on time. Prepare a well-balanced breakfast with protein to help them stay full. Arrive to school on time. Being late will only increase stress in your child.

Think positive

Give your kid the chance to discuss their feelings with you. Explain a certain degree of test anxiety is normal and everyone has some fear before a test. Turn their thinking around. Help your child remember how hard they have studied for the test and tell them to show what they know. Encourage them to relax, breathe deeply and stay focused.

After the test

Review the test with your child after a grade has been given. Go over any mistakes your child made. Make sure your kid understands why they missed what they did. Help identify areas of weakness to make improvements for a better performance next time. Praise your child for work well done.

If problems persist

Is your kid bringing home low-test scores on a regular basis? Have a parent-teacher conference. Insight from the teacher could prove to be very valuable. A teacher knows their specific area of weakness. Extra work could be given to help reinforce a concept or provide some additional help. If the teacher’s time is limited, consider a tutor to provide personalized attention to bring your child up to speed.

Integrating these strategies into your child’s weekly routine will go a long way in preparing your child for success in school. Staying prepared, getting parental support and given the opportunity to openly talk and work through concerns, a kid will get their fears under control. Anxiety will subside, confidence will return and test performance will improve.

Sara is a freelance writer, and mother of two daughters. 

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