The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Preparing Your Children for Standardized Tests

Testing of school children is a fact of life.  We may not agree with the purpose of giving these tests, but that does not stop school systems from giving them and State and Federal Governments from mandating them.  It, therefore, behooves parents to prepare their children for testing.

Most teachers know the children in their class well enough to be able to make recommendations to the teacher in the next grade.  They know what their students have accomplished that year because they have been giving them teacher-made tests all during the school year.  These tests are usually low key and are given at the end of units of study.  Sometimes they can even be fun for children to take if the teacher creates a relaxed atmosphere.

Children may get upset by the standardized achievement tests, however.  These tests come with computer scoring sheets, and stop watches and time limits.  Children can sense that something is different because the teacher reads the directions very carefully and the whole morning or day is given over to the testing.  Children may even be separated or given seats different from the ones they have previously occupied.  There may be a feeling of tension in the air.  Many very good students do not do well in these situations.

The best way to help your children is not to be anxious yourself.  If you are calm and casual, your children will relax too.  Try not to interrogate them about the testing.  They will tell you in due time if they are upset.  Your response then should be that you are confident they did the best they could and nobody expects any more than that of them.

If you have a child who consistently does not do well on tests, however, you might consider helping him to learn some good test-taking behaviors.  For example, he should find out if he will be penalized for guessing.  If not, he should fill in all of the blanks whether he knows the answer or not.  It is okay to guess and he should not feel badly if he does not know everything on the test.  Technically, he is not suppose to.  He should learn how to judge his time so that he gets to answer every question on the computer scoring sheet.  If he gets lost in space when dealing with the computer scoring sheet, he should learn to use a marker.

If he does not understand the teacher’s directions, encourage him to speak up.  The teacher wants him to do well too, and is usually anxious to help.  It is not helpful to tell your child it is a game and will be fun.  It is really not that much fun and the child may misunderstand and decide not to play the game or make it a game by marking the computer answer sheet in the shape of a face or whatever.

Every high school student facing the SAT test should, at the very least, read a good book on how to succeed taking this test and he should start doing this as a freshman.  Good coaching courses help to raise scores and to relax students especially those who are poor test takers.

The fact of the matter testing is here to stay probably for a long time.  You may as well get used to it and prepare your children.  If they become discouraged because of low scores, help them to discover why they did poorly and then together develop options and techniques to solve the problem for the next time.  Be encouraging and keep testing in the proper perspective.  This attitude will help your children do the same.

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