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.”

Taking the stress out of test day

Teach relaxation techniques

“My son sometimes has problems with stressing on the day of a big test,” says one dad. “I’ve found the best remedy is to have him clear his head of all the distractions or negative thoughts and take deep, relaxing breaths. And to focus on doing his best and not worrying about what grade he will achieve.”

Clear minds with mint

A mom of three boys, ages 3, 6, and 10, offers this refreshing recommendation: “Have the teacher give students peppermints to suck on and/or to scent the room with peppermint. Peppermint helps to relieve stress, and it helps the brain to concentrate.”

Instill confidence in your kid

“I tell my child to do the best he can,” another parent says. “I tell him how well he is prepared for the test. I always try to keep his spirits up…. I also give him tips like not to rush with the answers and to stay calm.”

Help for kids with learning challenges

Try calming and concentration techniques

“My oldest daughter has AD/HD,” says one parent from Texas. “Although she is academically very gifted, her teachers have referred to her as being high-strung around test times. To pull her stress levels down, we have a couple of tricks that we use. The first is aromatherapy. When [my daughter] is feeling especially stressed, she has been taught to close her eyes, quiet her mind, and rub a couple of drops [of essential oil of lavender and rosemary] behind her ear. We’ve done this since she was 6 years old, and now, at 17, she tells me that the minute she smells lavender or rosemary anywhere, she immediately feels calmer.

“As a younger child, she was extremely impulsive and could become quite agitated. We purchased a glitter wand that is about eight inches long. Her ritual was to hold the wand upright until all of the glitter settled into the bottom, then turn it over and allow the glitter to settle again. Three turns of the wand usually bought her enough time to get past the immediate impulse to become angry.”

Ease anxiety with exercise and sleep

“I have two boys with ADD,” says an Alabama mom. “One is in third grade and one in second. Their teachers do an excellent job of sending home newsletters each week to let us know what is coming up in the test department.

“We go over information each night that might be on the test. The night before the test, we go to the YMCA and do a little swimming. This gives their bodies a little stress break as well as their minds. They get a good night’s rest and always a good breakfast. Does this work? You bet! They are both honor roll students and have been since first grade.”

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Updated: April 2, 2015