Standardized tests are becoming increasingly important. In some places, they’re being used to determine which children move on to the next grade or get held back. Here are some ways to help reduce stress as your child prepares for these high-stakes tests.
1. Stay on top of homework.
Slow and steady progress throughout the year is a good way to prepare. Trying to cram for the test at the last minute isn’t very effective.
2. Talk with your child’s teacher.
Get frequent progress reports to find out whether your child understands the material. The teacher can also explain why the class is being given certain assignments. Knowing the purpose of these assignments—and if the material will be covered on the standardized test—can help motivate your child to complete them.
3. Read with your child regularly.
This is a good way to expand your child’s vocabulary. Read anything that interests your child, including comic books, magazines and cookbooks. Given that many state tests now emphasize nonfiction, you also may want encourage reading the newspaper. Ask questions about what you’ve just read together. That will give you insights into how much progress she’s making in reading comprehension.
4. Practice filling in the bubbles.
Make sure your child knows test-taking techniques. Does she know how to fill in the bubbles on test forms? Can she use the computer program if the tests are online? Ask her teacher if practice tests are available.
5. Use relaxation techniques.
6. Talk about what the test is like.
Knowing what to expect can help your child feel less anxious. Let your child know well in advance what day the test will be and what to expect during the test. This includes how often there will be breaks, where the bathrooms are and who to ask for assistance. (Older kids can likely find out this information on their own—but encourage them to do so.)
7. Go over her accommodations.
Does your child qualify for special education? Make sure her individualized education program (IEP) or 504 plan clearly outlines the accommodations she’ll receive during testing. Follow through with the school to make sure she gets them. Discuss accommodations with your child ahead of time, too. It’s important for her to know, for instance, that she’s being moved into a separate room for the test (and understand why).
8. Be calm and upbeat.
If you seem worried, your child will likely pick up on that and worry even more. So stay calm and be supportive. The week of the test, try to make sure your child gets plenty of rest. The day of the test, make sure she has a good breakfast. Tell your child how much you love her and how confident you are in her abilities. Tell her to try her best and use the strategies she has learned. Send her off by saying, “You’re gonna do just fine.”