Testing Tips That Work at Home

By Michelle VanBueren

I am a teacher. In the spring of every year we sweated through standardized testing. It was exhausting… and I wasn't even the one taking the test! As the teacher, peering anxiously over the shoulders of my young wards, I worried and hoped for good test scores.

The hoping and worrying was most pronounced during standardized tests, of course. But honestly, I worried about some of my students during every test. Little Laura, squeaking by in English. CJ scowling fiercely at the math test. Sarah twirling her hair as she gazed blankly at a social studies quiz.

Now I'm a mom. And a teacher. I don't want my children to "squeak by." Like any mom, I want my kids to soar.

But I'm also a realist. I know with uncanny certainty that my children will struggle at some point in their academic careers. So. What can I do to help them take test effectively?

Parents Magazine, while not an academic journal, has some good advice for moms like me and kids like mine about taking tests.

First, don't freak out. That's right. Don't. If you are worried about an upcoming test, whether for a unit in biology or a standardized test, your child will worry, too. Under the "Don't Freak Out" umbrella include this: Don't let one test score put you into a tail spin. That one test is not the whole measure of your child's abilities or understanding. Everyone has bad days. Maybe that's all it was. Besides, it's just one test.

Encourage your child to read. Get him to the library to get books to read which may or may not relate to the test subject.

Encourage your child to study. By the way, don't believe it if he says he "can totally do these proofs" while watching the football game on t.v. Children need quiet, comfortable places to study. Away from the t.v. and the radio… and the iPod… and Pandora (www.pandora.com) … and siblings. He should study new material the day he gets it and review it over a longer period of time, say, the week before the test.

Don't let them cram! This should be under the "Freak Out" umbrella, because cramming increases stress. Additionally, pulling all-nighters hinders test performance. See next paragraph…

Make them go to bed. Tired brains don't test well. A good night's sleep allows the brain to better retain and process information.

Once they've slept, FEED THEM! Not Pop-Tarts, either. A well-balanced diet. The Franklin Institute has a brain food pyramid. "Essentially, fats build your brain, and proteins unite it. Carbohydrates fuel your brain, and micronutrients defend it."

Teachers aren't scary. (Well, most teachers aren't scary.) Talk to your child's teacher about concerns you have. Ask for study strategies that can help your child. Develop a relationship with the teacher so together, you can catch problems before they are insurmountable.

And this should go without saying… Make your student go to school. If the child isn't in school, she can't learn the material. If she doesn't know the material, she won't test well.

Matthew Tabor

Matthew Tabor

Matthew is a prolific, independent voice in the national education debate. He is a tireless advocate for high academic standards from pre-K through graduate school, fiscal sense and personal responsibility. He values parents’ and families’ rights and believes in accountability for teachers, administrators, politicians and all taxpayer-funded education entities. With a unique background that includes work in higher education, executive recruiting, professional sport and government, Matthew has consulted on new media and communication strategies for a broad range of clients. He writes the blog “Education for the Aughts” at www.matthewktabor.com , has contributed to National Journal’s ‘Expert’ blog for Education , and interacts with the education community on Twitter and Google+.
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