Friday, October 1, 2004

Parents can ease stress of tests

The Enquirer

Eighth-grader Anne Ehrman gets reinforcement from her mother, Susan, when it comes to preparing for tests. Parents are advised to take an interest but not add to any stress the child might feel.
Michael White, the Princeton district's director of Testing/Research and a school psychologist, assembled this list of tips for parents to help their children cut down on test stress. The list was sent home in preparation for next week's Third Grade Reading Achievement Tests, but can apply to other grades.

"These tests can create test anxiety and learning blocks in some students," White said. "You can help your child by providing them with some skills for coping with the tests."

Here are some ideas:

The night before

• Help your child get to bed on time. Research shows that being well-rested helps students do better.

• Help children resolve immediate arguments before going to bed.

• Keep your routine as normal as possible. Upsetting natural routines may make children feel insecure. Mention the test to show you're interested but don't dwell on it.

The morning of test day

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Parents can ease stress of tests
• Get up early enough to avoid rushing. Be sure to have your child at school on time.

• Have your child eat a good breakfast but not a heavy one. Research shows that students do better if they have breakfast before they take tests.

• Have your child dress in something comfortable.

• Be positive about the test. Acknowledge that tests can be hard and that they are designed so that no one will know all the answers. Explain that doing your best is what counts. The important thing is to make your child comfortable and confident about the test.

Taking the test

• Recommend that they look over the whole test at the beginning and do the easiest parts first, saving the hardest questions for last.

• Remind them that they are not expected to know every answer.

• They should read directions carefully before marking any test questions, even though they have done this kind of test before and they think that they know the directions. If they do not understand the directions, ask for help.

• They are allowed 21/2 hours per test, but most students finish in about 45 to 60 minutes. This probably means many students are going through the tests much too quickly.

They should not leave any items blank. There is no penalty for guessing.

After the test

• Talk to your child about his or her feelings about the test, making sure you acknowledge the effort such a task requires.

• Discuss what was easy and what was hard, and what your child learned from the test.

• Discuss what changes your child would make if he or she were to retake the test.

• Explain that performance on a test is not a condition for you to love your child. You love your child just for the person he or she is.

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