When we ask a child what they really like about school, “I love to take tests” is not what they declare. Kids of all ages usually dread “the test”. Sure some teachers might call it a quiz or a quest, but we must call a spade, a spade. A test is a test!
A test is defined as a set of questions or exercises evaluating skill and knowledge. A quiz is usually shorter in length and a test usually covers a complete unit or a number of concepts. The truth is, for some children, especially kids with unique learning styles, any kind of testing can become a nerve-racking situation.
Are we conditioned to feel anxiety about testing? Children with a history of doing poorly on tests have learned to fear testing and consequently tend to do poorly. Some students are able to better express their degree of knowledge by using a different means of measurement like projects or oral presentations. Paper and pencil tests, the most common means of testing, usually rely on the memorization of facts and are simply testing the ability to recall information quickly.
Some students need extra time to recall information or to finish a test. If the teacher is aware of this need, they can assist a student by giving them more time. As a result the student will avoid guessing or speeding up.
What can we as parents and teachers do to help children feel less anxious before and during test taking? Ask your child how they feel about test taking. If your child demonstrates any of the following, they may be experiencing test anxiety.
• When they study for a test, do they feel hopeless?
• Do they feel bored and want to give up?
• Do they have trouble sleeping because they have a test the next day?
• Do they have trouble eating breakfast?
• During the test do they feel panic or faint?
• Do they get mental blocks?
• Do their hands or foreheads start to sweat?
• Do they blame themselves or say they are dumb?
• Do they appear depressed after taking a test?
Please read on for some wholesome suggestions to help make testing easier.
Preparation: Encourage your child to do all the reading and homework assignments leading up to the test. Help them keep papers in a neat binder or folder. Do not throw anything out until you are sure they are finished with that unit. Also, encourage them to space their studies so they are not cramming the night before. Keep a calendar of when tests and quizzes are scheduled.
The night before: Parents need to keep a positive attitude. Take the roll of coach and encourage your child to do well. Avoid putting extra pressure on them, for this may contribute to feelings of anxiety the next day. Make sure they have an appropriate place with few distractions to study. Provide ample time to get plenty of sleep the night before the test so they are well rested. Provide lots of fresh fruits for energy. Don’t allow them to load up on junk food or sugary treats. Some junk foods can interfere with clear thinking.
Day of: Make sure they eat a healthy breakfast. Get them up a bit earlier to avoid having to rush getting to school. Encourage them and tell them you think they did a fine job studying. Wish them luck, and tell them to have a nice day no matter how they do on the test. This helps alleviate some pressure and gives them control.
After the test: Praise them if they claim to have done well. If they say they did poorly, ask them how they can do better next time. Review the test with your child and go over mistakes. If you see something that should be brought to the teacher’s attention, call or email them to discuss your concerns. If your child is struggling with test taking, ask the teacher to offer some additional suggestions.
When kids get older, test scores are going to equate to grades and schools of choice. It is a good idea to help young children establish good habits now so when they are older they will successfully test stress free. However, getting good test grades does not determine the value of children for there is so much more to them as individuals. Test grades are only one small component. This is true especially if your child has unique learning styles. It is important to keep it all in perspective. Good luck and good test taking!