Some students thrive on test stress; others experience intense anxiety that leaves them physically ill – stomachaches, headaches, etc. – and unable to sleep.
Parents can help their children prepare mentally and physically to face standardized tests head on. These tips and techniques may not completely eliminate a child’s stress, but they are tools that can empower him or her to confront this challenge and others they will face in school and beyond.
Test taking tips:
- Get enough sleep. One study showed that students who got eight hours of sleep the night before a test were three times more likely to answer a question correctly than those who didn’t. Adequate sleep – 8-10 hours per night – helps ensure children have the energy and stamina to make it through the test in top form.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. Start the day with a meal that
includes complex carbohydrates and protein so energy lasts as long
as possible. Eggs, cereal and whole-wheat toast give the brain
what it needs to help you think more clearly and much longer
compared to high-sugar selections. A healthy breakfast can boost
memory and help a child be more alert – a definite recipe for test
- Exercise. Studies show that physical activity helps improve attention and how fast students process information. Exercise leading up to test day can be excellent mental preparation – not to mention fresh air helps clear the head.
- Have fun. Encourage your child to do something enjoyable the night before a big test – whether it’s playing a board game or riding bikes together as a family. Having fun is a helpful distraction from stress.
- Write it out. Writing about test stress can be a great way to conquer it. The idea is to get rid of stress by putting it all down on paper. Suggest your child write for 5-10 minutes about test stress. It can be an empowering way to frame positive thoughts about accomplishments as well, such as “I do a good job on math facts homework” or “I did a really good job on the ELA practice test.”
- Think positive thoughts. Science shows that thinking positive thoughts can actually help the brain function. Help your child practice this: When you start to feel stressed, take slow, deep breaths and think of something that makes you happy – petting your dog, playing a game with friends, hanging out at the beach in summer – for 10-20 seconds. Remind children that they can use this same technique in the middle of the test if they feel stressed. Taking 20 seconds to relax can help regain focus.
- Do the best you can. That’s all that is expected of students – to do the best they can on a test. Let your child know there may be questions they don’t know the answer to or don’t understand. Suggest they skip these questions and move on, coming back later when they can perhaps spend a little more time.
The bottom line is that taking any test can be stressful, invigorating or scary. But with the right approach, children can feel they are mentally and physically ready to handle the challenge.
Opting out doesn’t help anyone:
Despite what you may have heard, neither New York State law nor the education commissioner’s regulations provide any legal right or mechanism for students – or districts – to opt out of required state assessments, except for certain exceptions such as those involving students with disabilities.
The state assessments, along with the annual report card for the school district, help parents and teachers know—from one objective view—how well students’ achievement measures up to the Common Core Learning Standards. The test scores also help determine what additional academic help any individual student may need to reach the expectations for his or her grade level.
Districts may not make “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) in the state’s accountability system and could lose federal Title I funding if participation in the tests falls below 95 percent.
Copyright ©2013 by Parent Today and Capital Region BOCES; Used with permission.