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

How Parents Can Prepare Their Children for Testing

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.  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

given  at the end of the school year, 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

occupied all year.  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 they best  they  could

and nobody expects any more than that of them.

If  you have a child who does not do well on  tests,however,

you  might  consider  helping him  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 supposed 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 how  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 high school  freshman.   One

good  book  is by Adam Robinson and John Katzman  and  is  called

“Cracking the System.”  Good couching courses like the  Princeton

Review  are  also helpful.  They do help raise  scores  and  help                     

relax students especially those who are poor test takers.

The fact of the matter is, 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  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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