Training a Good Test-Taker
Q. It used
to be only the goodie-goodie type kids ever got what you'd call "test anxiety."
Nowadays, it seems to be widespread. How can I help my child avoid freaking out
over tests, in the face of all these important tests they have to deal with
Most kids do feel
exam stress these days, and kids who let it get to them score significantly
lower on important tests. It has a lot to do with our self-absorbed culture,
and the tendency of today's teens to be super-hard on themselves is a double
whammy. Of course kids want to please their parents and impress their friends,
so the pressure can really be "on" when it's test time.
are the signs of test anxiety:
Physical symptoms - sweaty palms, headache, stomachache,
Trouble falling asleep the night before
School avoidance - manipulating parents to be absent on
test day, or skipping school
How can parents help kids stay competitive, and yet calm
down about tests?
Communicate. Too many parents
put undue pressure on kids to excel on tests, but too many haven't the faintest
idea when a big test is even coming up. At the start of the school year, talk
with your child and his or her teachers, too, if necessary, and record those
big dates on your family calendar, especially the PSAT, SAT, ACT, NAEP, PLAN,
statewide and other "big" tests that secondary students often take. Record
midterms and finals, too. Then parents can get a clue when Junior's behavior
goes South, and it's apparent from the calendar that the big test is coming up.
From that point, you can talk things through, ask thoughtful questions about
how your child is feeling, keep the household atmosphere pleasant, concentrate
on good nutrition and rest, and really help.
your trials and triumphs. Every child needs to know that Mom and Dad have won big,
and also lost big, and still survived. Don't put up a fake façade of perfection
that will add to your child's stress. Make your child laugh with some ways that
your own anxiety over big events - a job interview, a sales call, even asking
someone for a date - has backfired. A little laughter and smiling really help!
good time management. Fight the procrastination monster. All of us have put
something off for too long, and then tried to cram the night before. It never
works. And procrastination is a major contributor to stress. Help your child
learn to do a little preparation every day for many weeks before a big test,
instead of trying to cram the night before. Also, try some trial tests at home
to help your child learn to use time wisely. Uncertainty about the use of time
adds a great deal to pretest jitters.
Many students get a confidence boost from a study group, a mentor or tutor, or
a few one-on-one study sessions with a classroom teacher before or after
school. Work far in advance to help your child set that help up, and it can
really pay off.
your knowledge of your child. If your son has always been a fidgeter, give him a
ball of Pla-Dough to roll around in his hand during the test and help calm
himself down. If your daughter has an oral fixation, provide gum or hard candy
on the morning of the test. Teach deep-breathing, positive thinking . . . and
coach your child to take a warm bath or shower and drink a nice glass of milk
and eat a banana the night before. Comfort goes a long, long way toward
are some good tips from West Virginia University at Parkersburg: