Preparing Your Child for Standardized Tests
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Every fall or spring public schools go through the annual rite of testing. This process is hardly new. Standardized tests have been used by public schools for many decades. And due to the continuing pressures to evaluate the progress of students nationwide, they continue to be widely used today.
Standardized tests administered by schools are objective measures given in the exact same way to all students. They are predominantly multiple choice but more and more they are incorporating written samples. They are intended to give parents information about their children, teachers information about their students, and school districts information about the effectiveness of their programs. They provide precise information about students’ academic skills and allow us to determine whether they are above, at, or below grade level in their basic academic skills.
What should you do to get your child ready? Very little. Children will not gain much from studying for these tests other than anxiety and apprehension. At the same time you can help make the testing process more comfortable and less anxiety-provoking by doing the following:
- Talk with your children about the test a day or two before it is given. Your school district should inform you of the test dates well in advance; make a note on your calendar. Keep it brief (perhaps five minutes), low-key, and pressure-free. Explain that the tests are used by the school to help children learn better but that the results have no effect on grades. Encourage your children to do their best but avoid giving the test undue importance. Discussing the test at length and with intensity will send them a message that their worth hinges on how well they do. Parent anxiety, which is readily transparent to children, can engender child anxiety.
- Suggest a few of the following test-taking strategies to an older child:
- complete sample exercises
- pay close attention to the directions
- ask for help if confused
- answer all questions
- pace yourself so you do not spend too much or too little time with one item
- avoid stray marks on the answering sheet
- look for key words to aid in understanding such as not, but, except, and only
- check your work
- work until told to stop
- Have your child get a good night’s sleep. Awaken your child a few minutes earlier than usual to avoid a frenzied morning.
- Avoid arguments or discussion of upsetting topics the morning of the testing. Try to keep the morning routine the same.
- Give your child a nutritious breakfast the day of the testing but don’t make an issue if he or she refuses to eat.