In a perfect world, every day at school would be filled with interesting, hands-on learning experiences. But even the most progressive schools must determine whether or not their students have successfully mastered the academic material on the lesson plan. For better or for worse, that means that inevitably your student will have to endure classroom exams. Here are some tips to help your child prepare for tests, hopefully changing what can sometimes be a daunting experience for students to an anticipated opportunity to show what they’ve learned.
Start studying early.
Planning ahead with your child is one of the best strategies for acing classroom tests. Spacing study sessions apart has proven to be a significantly more effective tactic than cramming during one long study period. Students following this approach can group review topics into different sessions, take on small chunks of material at a time, and cover test topics more than once. Studying the test material two weeks before the actual assessment builds a foundation for later review, cementing the major themes in your child’s brain.
Practice the test format.
Be sure that your child is ready for the kinds of questions that they will encounter on the test. Even if students know the subject matter they are being tested on, they can often be thrown off by the format of the assessment. If the test is multiple choice, make sure your child understands techniques for eliminating answers. If they anticipate essay questions, create possible test questions and walk them through the steps of analyzing the question and taking notes or drawing a diagram.
Test-taking also involves a limited time frame, so make sure your student is prepared to move onto the next question if one seems too difficult at first, rather than spending the whole test period trying to solve a single problem. Perfectionists may need practice writing down an acceptable answer, rather than laboring to determine the perfect answer. Replicating test settings through practice tests is a high-utility study technique when it comes to preparing students for a big exam.
Go in with the right attitude.
Help your child understand that one test won’t make or break their educational career, and remind that their preparation has set them up for success. Studying improves confidence, which in turn has been proven to be one of the primary non-cognitive predictors of positive school performance. At the same time, kids who are overconfident are more likely to rush through the test without checking their work carefully. So encourage your child to reach the middle ground, studying enough that they feel prepared, but not so much that they lose focus during the test.
While we all want our kids to be well rested and eat a good breakfast every school day, it is especially important to engage in these healthy habits on test days. If there is a choice between an extra half hour of studying and an extra half hour of sleep, insist that your student opts for the Z’s; studies show that our brains operate best when we are well rested.
Similarly, a healthy diet can make a real difference in your child’s test scores. Yogurt, eggs and blueberries are great brain foods for the morning before a test, while nuts and cottage cheese are some of the best snacks to eat immediately beforehand.
Mark B. Kance, M.A.T. is the Executive Director at the Hamilton Township Sylvan Learning in Hamilton New Jersey. Sylvan Learning is the leading provider of tutoring to students of all ages, grades and skill levels with more than 30 years of experience and nearly 800 centers located throughout North America. Sylvan's trained and Sylvan-certified instructors provide personalized instruction in reading, writing, mathematics, study skills and test-prep for college entrance and state exams. Sylvan also hosts MomMinded.com, a blog offering tips and resources from moms and education experts. For more information, call 1-800-31-SUCCESS or visit www.SylvanLearning.com.