It's that time of year again. Kids all over the country are
sharpening their #2 pencils and sweating in nervous
anticipation. Whether your child has a standardized test coming
up in a few days or a few weeks, these last-minute, test-prep
tips and strategies will help him relax and do his best.
Look for weak spots in your child's test and then
concentrate on those areas in the test prep book.
If your child's test is less than a week away, forgo
reviewing his answers in detail and concentrate on helping him
learn some test-taking strategies.
Here are the answers to kids' most common questions about
Q: Should I guess if I don't know the answer?
A: In many cases, the answer is yes. Most tests don't
take off points for answering incorrectly; they just don't add
any! However, there are tests that do penalize students for
giving a wrong answer. One such test is the SAT1 College Boards.
If you aren't sure about whether this applies to your child's
test, ask her teacher, school counselor, or principal. It's a
good idea to know this before the test is given and to make sure
your child knows as well.
Q: What should I do if I'm stuck on a question?
A: Skip it. Your child can always return to the
question once he's answered those he's more sure about. But
advise your child to be careful about filling in the answer
sheet. It may seem obvious to skip that line on the answer sheet
when you skip the question, but in the more intense atmosphere
of a testing situation, it's easy to forget to do this.
Q: How can I avoid skipping a line on the answer
A: Too often, kids find themselves at the end of a
test, with two or three answer choices left to fill in on the
answer sheet! It can be a nightmare for kids to go back and see
where they went wrong, while keeping an eye on the ticking
Here's how your child can avoid this situation: If your child
is given blank pieces of paper to use as scrap, she can use the
straight edge of one of those papers to keep her place on the
answer sheet. Have her practice bubbling in an answer sheet
before the test, so she can get used to moving the paper down a
line with every question answered. If your child is not given
scrap paper, she can use her extra (unsharpened) pencil to
perform the same task.
Easing Pre-Test Jitters
It's normal for kids to get nervous before a significant
test. This is actually a good thing. That adrenaline boost can
be helpful, but it can be hard to obtain and maintain
that perfect level of nervousness. If your child is overly
worried in your opinion, try these tips:
Reassure your child
Tell your child that the test will be used to evaluate how well
a school or school district is educating its students. It's
important for kids to have a sense of the broader context.
Put the test in perspective
Explain that test scores are looked at along with many other
pieces of information in determining your child's achievement
level. Her grades and progress over time, for example, are also
very important. This may be a big test, but it is still just
Take a deep breath
If your child is a very nervous test-taker, have her do deep
breathing exercises before the test. She can take a deep breath
and count to ten. Then have her take shorter deep breaths in
between passages or sections of the test -- counting to three
only. This exercise is fast and simple, but it really works!
Discuss what to expect
Go over with your child when and where the test will be given.
Make sure she knows what will generally be covered on the test
and roughly how long it will take to finish it. Your child's
school will probably send home a letter before the test with
much of this information.
Make sure he gets his rest
Make sure your child will be comfortable and alert on the day of
the test. He should get a good night's sleep the night before
and a light breakfast the morning of the test. (A heavy
breakfast can make you sleepy.)
Dress in layers
Have your child dress comfortably in layers so that he can take
clothes off or put them on, depending on the temperature of the
Pack a snack
Even if your child doesn't normally have a snack time during the
school day, he may be allowed to have one if there's a break
during the test. Pack him a light nutritious snack, but avoid
salty foods that may make him thirsty later in the testing
Finally, tell your child that the test will have some
difficult questions on it. All of the questions are not supposed
to be easy. Explain that he may not be able to answer all of the
questions, and that's expected. All he can do is try her best,
and that's okay!