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Test-Taking Tips

These common sense approaches can help reduce anxiety and improve test performance in kids with learning disabilities.

By Nancy Firchow, M.L.S.

Tests are a fact of life for kids in school, including those with learning disabilities. Tests help teachers gauge progress, measure skills, and determine grades. They can also be pointers to areas where kids need extra help. The good news is that there are some common sense approaches to studying and test taking that can reduce anxiety and improve test performance. You can help your child learn test-taking strategies she'll use throughout her entire education.

Before the Test

Preparation is the key to success. Before each test your child should ask the teacher - and write down - what material the test will cover and what types of questions to expect. She can then focus her studies and practice answering questions in the same format. Encourage her to adopt these other good study habits:

  • Avoid cramming. Instead, study a little every day.
  • Review the material more than one time.
  • Answer practice questions in textbooks.
  • Have your child teach the subject to you or a study partner.
  • Ensure she gets a good night's sleep and has a healthy breakfast before the test.

On the Day of the Test

No matter what the subject or test format, coach your child to:

  • Listen closely to verbal directions and read carefully any instructions on the test itself.
  • Ask the teacher to explain any instructions she doesn't understand.
  • Scan the entire test for the types of questions and use this information to pace herself.
  • Jot down memory aids, formulas, or important facts in the margins.
  • Answer the questions she knows first and come back to the harder ones later, remembering to mark unanswered questions so they're easy to find.

Types of Test Questions

Tests are often a blend of several types of questions. Review and practice these strategies for various question types with your child.


  • Circle key words in the question.
  • Remember: If any part of the answer is false, the whole thing is false.
  • Watch for words like "never," "always," "every," "all," "none," and "only"; they generally indicate a false answer.
  • Rarely leave a blank - a guess has a 50-50 chance of being right!

Multiple Choice

  • Read the whole question carefully and try to decide what the answer is before reading any of the options.
  • Read all of the answer options, then choose the one that most closely matches her answer.
  • When unsure, eliminate answers that are clearly incorrect.
  • If forced to guess, choose the longest, most detailed answer.

Open Book

  • Prepare a sheet with important facts or formulas to avoid spending time looking them up.
  • Mark important pages with sticky notes or paper clips.
  • Practice using the index to look up specific topics.
  • Skip questions when the answer can't be found quickly; mark them to come back to later.
  • Do not copy from the book! Use the book as a guide to write answers in her own words.

Comments from readers

"these tips really work good thanks"