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Bright ideas from readers: Test-taking tips

GreatSchools parents share how they help their kids squash test stress.

By GreatSchools Staff

Do standardized tests, quizzes, and final exams turn your child into a sweaty, queasy ball of nerves? Skip the meltdowns with these test-taking tips from parents who have been there, dealt with that.

Study strategies that work

Cover the basics

"Children must have good study habits," says a parent of a high schooler. "Chapter review is always a good [technique]. Make sure to pay attention to the headings in bold. Good note taking is [key]….

"Bottom line, students need to grasp their core subjects at the elementary level so that they will be prepared for the next level of their education. Just this morning my daughter's teacher told me that he is seeing a lack of organizational skills and [that] his students do not know how to take effective notes."

Review homework

"Set aside 30 minutes a day for homework — 15 for studies and 15 for reading together," says one mom. "Make it fun. Switch who gets to read so it's never the same. Use a timer. Allow 15 minutes of whatever they want to do after the first 15 of homework. Pay attention to signs of boredom or any other behavior that might signal [problems]. Put in some time now so it pays off for their future!"

A mother from Houston emphasizes the importance of staying on top of daily assignments: "First, make sure the child completes all their assigned homework. If parents also check homework, [they] will see if the child understands what they are doing and can review and explain the difficult parts in a way that best suits their child's learning ability. Review the chapters, class material, study sheets, and notes with the child a day or two (or more) before the test, depending on age level."

Play memory games

"For the [information] that just doesn't sink in, kids and parents can make up silly phrases or clues or jingles to help jog the memory," advises the same Houston mom. "Because they are silly, the child will remember it and will usually get it right."

Break information into chunks

"What I have found works for our 9-year-old is to break the information up into smaller sections," says a mom from Illinois. "Sometimes [kids] are so overwhelmed by the amount of content they need to learn, they don't feel capable of remembering any of it. By breaking the information up, one can feel successful when the information is retained — and be ready to move on to more content."

Practice with your child

"When my kids have a test for school or an after-school activity, I make sure to practice with them," says another parent. "The most important [thing] is telling them they're ready, and I've noticed that gives my kids confidence. Studying/practicing with them also makes it more enjoyable for my kids — they don't get bored or lose focus."

Comments from readers

"A happy environment in school makes a difference in how kids learn. This is not always the case, I am so grateful that our school district is one of them. My kids are happy to go to school and we notice that happy, caring teachers and principals set the environment."
"I enjoyed this article and appreciate some of the reminders of what I can do to help my son. He is 17 and was just diagnosed with severe test anxiety, a short term memory deficit and processing deficit along with adhd. His teachers have all been very supportive and allow him extra time while taking tests. I love the idea of the peppermints. I have also been giving him DHA, magnesium, zinc and folic acid supplements. His teachers have all said they have noticed that he is not as impulsive as he used to be."
"I agree with the 4/27/2009 post about the 3 month layoff that was dicatated by the growing season. 3 months off......either you use it or lose it. From a educational standpoint, I believe that we are missing out on courses that would be impacted by the weather and the great outdoors.....outside more often(science, art, physical education), more conservation projects at the most preferable time of year, all put torwards credits and graduation."
"My personal obversation , that goes to the core of education problem, is time. Time to learn, time to study, time to teach!!!! Model for the school year , for STUDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES, I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT A FEW EXCEPTIONS. Nine months of school and three months off . To plant crops, till the soil, and harvest the hay,ect. Which good for the 19th and early 20th century. When 90 % of the US population lived on the farm!!! This is not the case in the 21st century 4% of the US population lives or works on the farm!!!!!"
"The poster of 01/17/2008, saying 'I think that the best way ...' should perhaps spend a little time learning to spell and compose a letter. Then pass your new-found knowledge on to your child. The tests will not be so stressful then. Literacy can be a wonderful thing."
"My daughter is in 4th grade. She is so stressed out about taking the FCAT.Is this test required in Florida schools or is it optional? Please respond and let me know.One of the readers comments said that the state test are optional. I always thought you had to take these tests."
"I think that the best way for parents to help their kids de-stress from the test is don't have them take it!! My daughter won't be taking the test - not this year, not ever! The state test is optional! You can opt out. My daughter's teacher said that she will go to the library to read or play games with other kids. They take tests at the end of each trimester, so why is this necessary? To see if the teacher is doing a good job? I know if a teacher is doing a good job without the test. The thing that I find most offensive is that her teacher wants her to take the test because she is smart, but doesn't want her 'not so smart' students to opt that she looks good. It's dispicable! I won't allow my child to be a pawn or to best stressed out for something that is required or necessary! "
"This article is ridiculous. You're writing about children who have been honor roll students since the first grade, not children that have trouble with tests. These children obviously are doing fine with them. I have a 12 yo son who has always had trouble with testing but is generally very bright and knows his material. I was looking for an informative article that would give me some tips to really help a child with testing problems. "