Tips for taking tests
Do your kids get frustrated at the thought of taking tests? Your answer will largely depend on how successful they have been in the past—that is, students who usually do well on tests tend to like them, while those who do poorly feel frustrated. To make matters worse, this second group of students often studies longer and harder than the rest but still meets with disappointing results. Sound familiar?
Are there strategies to help students do better on tests? Of course, and you likely do many of them already such as having your sons or daughters get lots of sleep, eat a nutritious breakfast, and study over time. However, this month, I'd like to share some less common tips for taking tests you may not have tried before.
Scientific studies have shown that our minds are much more susceptible to outside influences than we might think In his book, blink, author Malcolm Gladwell shares the concept of "priming"—little things that can influence how we respond or act in certain situations. How can you help prime your children to do better on tests? A few minutes before the test have them think about past successes or what it would be like to be a really smart person they know. This association helps them get into a "smart" frame of mind and can actually improve performance.
Again, studies have shown that as our heart rate increases and we become more stressed, our body reacts by shutting down part of our brain—diminishing our ability to think and reason. Teach your kids simple techniques by which to stay calm: taking 2-3 slow deep breaths; smiling; and thinking calming, positive thoughts. Practice these techniques at home so that they become automatic.
Remember You Have Options
One of the worst feelings is getting stuck on a question. Instead of spending lots of time trying to figure it out (and getting even more stressed!) explicitly teach your kids to do the following: if the wording of a question seems confusing, ask the teacher to re-phrase it; draw a diagram of what the question is asking; or simply skip it and do the ones you know first—helping to build your confidence.
Manage Your Environment
Do your children learn best or feel more comfortable under bright lights or dim? (Can they move to another location?) Do they often feel hot or cold? (Wear sweaters or shorts.) Do they often get thirsty or hungry? (Can they bring a water bottle or snack into class?) Do they prefer to sit, stand, or lie down when doing work? Do they perform best in the morning or afternoon? While the teacher may not be able to accommodate all their preferences, they are still worth mentioning.
There is no substitute for proper test preparation. However, there are always several things you can do to help improve the odds your children will perform their very best on upcoming tests. And once learned, they can help them this year and in all the years to come.
• Interested in learning more or getting professional support for your children? Visit www.YouthCoachCanada.com for more information.