No matter what your personal feelings on high-stakes testing are, there is no escaping the reality that these assessments will be an important part of your child’s academic experience. And, everyone wants to see their child experience success in the classroom. So, what’s the best way to help your child prepare for high-stakes tests—and ensure they keep a positive mindset while doing so? Here are eight simple tips for parents to help your student perform their best on testing days.
1. Prioritize attendance and homework
Tests are ultimately intended to be a measure of how well students have learned the material being taught in class. With that in mind, the best (and most straightforward) piece of test-prep advice for caregivers is to do what you can to ensure that your child is fully engaged with their classwork throughout the year. Set aside dedicated homework time each night to ensure that your child is completing their assignments consistently throughout the year. It’s also a good idea to regularly reflect on your family routine, and make sure you and your child are keeping a schedule that gets them to class on time every day, whether it’s virtually or not. If your child is absent for a day or has to miss a class period, check-in with them to ensure they can make up what they missed.
2. Communicate with teachers
Regular communication with your child’s teacher can help you gain valuable insight into their progress. Make a point of meeting or talking with them on an ongoing basis to understand what they’re working on, what they’ll be tested on, and the areas that they are excelling and struggling in. Your child’s teacher is also a great resource for test-preparation practice and strategies you can use with your child at home. Plus, they can keep you up to date on group study sessions and other opportunities that your child may benefit from.
3. Talk to your child about taking tests
The purpose and goals of testing are not always obvious, even to the students who take them. Especially with new test-takers, it’s easy to be intimidated by testing or simply not feel motivated to put forth a lot of effort. Have open, ongoing conversations with your child to explain the benefits of testing, focusing on how it helps them, their teacher, their school, and fellow classmates to understand their strengths and weaknesses and figure out the most effective ways to teach. You can also use this opportunity to ask your child how they feel about testing, and offer reassurance and perspective if they have any anxiety around exams.
4. Offer positive reinforcement
A little encouragement can go a long way in helping students walk into testing days feeling confident—which, in turn, can have a huge effect on their performance. Praise your child for the work that they have done to prepare for testing, and share in their excitement when they succeed with a new concept or skill. Similarly, when they are struggling with a topic, point out the progress that they’ve made and encourage them to continue working. Having already experienced success with the material that they will be tested on will help your child avoid test anxiety and perform to the best of their ability.
5. Support healthy habits
Sleep and nutrition can have a big impact on your child’s ability to focus and retain information. One of the most beneficial things that you can do as a parent or caregiver, is to focus on supporting these needs. Well-rounded meals and a regular sleep schedule will help your child succeed in the classroom on a day-to-day basis. On testing days, it’s particularly important to ensure that your child gets a good night’s sleep, starts the day with a filling breakfast, and goes to school with a water bottle to help stay hydrated.
6. Give your child a study space
A comfortable, dedicated space for homework and studying can work wonders for your child’s productivity. Make sure that your child’s space is quiet, well-lit, and stocked with the right materials. For example, a writing surface, pens, pencils, highlighters, scratch paper, a calculator, and any other tools that they might need.
7. Keep testing in perspective
No single test is that important. Avoid putting too much emphasis on your child’s test scores—doing so can make your child feel pressure that will ultimately only affect their performance negatively. It’s also important to not be upset by a single test score. Low test scores can occur for any number of reasons; it may have just been an off day for your child.
8. Debrief after the test
After the testing day has come and gone, talk with your child about their results and how they felt about the test. By discussing their answers, thought processes, and feelings, you can gain further insight into what they are struggling with and excelling at and then help them to better prepare next time. Talking about testing can also help your child process the experience and overcome any anxiety that they may have had.