Dr. Ben Bernstein, a test and stress expert, believes that the most important thing young people who are about to approach an exam could do is manage their stress levels.
“Parents can have a tremendous impact on how a child handles the stress of test taking,” Bernstein said.
“But it is the child who is taking the test.”
In his new book Test Success! How to Be Calm, Confident and Focused on Any Test, he helps parents help their children do well on tests.
“I watched a student’s low SAT scores rise dramatically once he learned how to calm down during the test. I saw the utter joy of a rower when she finally learned how to focus her energy throughout the entire race.
“I was particularly moved when I watched the parents of a student I was coaching learn to build their son’s self-esteem instead of tear it down, by relaxing their completely unrealistic expectations of him.”
Understanding the material is the first and the most key issue, he believes. Parents should ask their children whether they comprehend the material and if they have trouble memorizing it.
“Sometimes a child can’t pinpoint her difficulties and, if she’s too embarrassed, shy or resistant to talk with the teacher, she may need you to do so on her behalf.
“The teacher is a good resource because he may be more familiar than you are with your child’s learning style, so ask for his observations. Also, see if he can explain the material to you.”
He also suggests that a tutor may be helpful to your child by providing close personal attention. However, Columbus city officials have recently published effectiveness ratings for the more than 200 tutoring contractors that serve Ohio students through a federally required program.
More than half of the tutoring groups that Columbus evaluated were rated “not effective.”
The “supplemental education” sector is now an estimated $5 billion business, 10 times as large as it was in 2001, according to Michael Sandler, founder of education research and consulting firm Eduventures.
The tutoring, called “supplemental educational services,” is offered to children who attend a school with poor academic performance and a high level of poverty. Tutoring is sometimes free to parents and funded through federal grants.
Stress is clearly an important issue for students and their families when approaching exam periods. But Bernstein believes that parents should keep perspective.
“If your child performs poorly on a test, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have done a bad job as a parent. It could just mean your child needs some help. Don’t take it personally!
“Find the real problem and get the right help. If you have difficulty separating your child’s performance from your own self-esteem or from your own performance as a child, you can avail yourself of different forms of support such as parenting books, online help, peer counseling (talking with other parents) or professional therapy.”