It’s that time of year again. Spring has sprung, April showers are headed into May hay fever, and your kids are about to be subjected to the government-mandated testing that helps determine how the schools are performing. This can, understandably, be a time of stress for your kids and for you, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few things to think about that might help relax you and your student progeny as they pass through this annual trial.
- Sample tests are your friends. There are tons of these available online and at the bookstores. If you’re serious about getting your kids ready, make sure they’ve seen the format and content before, so it’s familiar when they sit down for the real thing.
- Test-taking strategies can be really helpful. The best I know (and the one that helped me pass the 8-hour Professional Engineer’s test the first try) is what I call the 1-2-3 method. Teach your test-taker to go through the test once, reading every question, and then rating each one on how easy they think it is. 1 is easiest, 2 may take a little work, and 3 is a toughy. Then go through the test once, solving all the 1s, then the 2s, and leaving the 3s to last. This way, they’re sure to get the most work done as efficiently as possible and leave time for the harder questions.
- Teach your kids to be aware of the clock. On long, multiple-choice tests, it’s easy to lose track of time. Pacing is important, and if they’re allowed to bring a watch into the room with them, get them used to setting time limits to work on each section, and then get in a rhythm to complete those sections within those limits.
- Remind your kids to breath. Just like any other activity that takes concentration, sometimes the most important thing to do while taking a test is the easiest as well. Breath regularly, and relax.
- If allowed, have them take plenty of scratch paper with them. It can really help to work a problem on blank paper, even language arts problems. Sometimes writing a word or phrase out can make all the difference in seeing the error that’s supposed to be fixed, or understanding the context that will point to the right answer.
These suggestions won’t guarantee absolute success, and there are plenty of people out there charging a lot of money for more sophisticated means and methods that what’s in this list. But in the end, it’s just a test. And by its very nature, not something that’s supposed to be “passed” or “failed,” but worked through to the limit of each child’s individual level of ability. So wish them luck, give them a good breakfast, and get them to school on time with the promise that, when they get home after the testing is done, you’ll sit down with them for a few hours on the Wii or XBox or PS3, and have some fun.