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Improving Your Child's Success

Why do children of equal ability often score so differently on tests? Is it because one child studies more than the other? Maybe-but this is not always the case.

In fact, good test-taking skills can be as important as knowing the material. Without these skills, your child's scores are not likely to reflect what he or she knows.

Test scores are not a perfect measure of what your child can do-but they are important. They may affect your child's yearly grade or placement in school. Besides, the ability to do well on tests can help throughout life-whether it's getting a driver's license or getting a job.

So, how can you help improve your child's test scores? Whether it's a teacher-made test or a standardized test, here are some test-taking secrets that get results.

Develop a healthy attitude toward tests

First, help your child understand why tests are necessary. Explain that a test is like a yardstick. Schools use them to measure how much students are learning-and how well schools are teaching. They let teachers know if your child needs extra help, and they also show areas of strength.

It's best not to make too big a deal about test results-especially on a single test. Many things can affect your child's score on any given day. If he does poorly on a test, he may need reassurance. Point out some of his successes.

Prepare for tests-one day at a time

Some students get so worried about tests that they don't do well on test day. The best way to avoid "test anxiety" is to space studying over several days or weeks. Begin by marking major test days on the family calendar.

Next, help your child schedule regular times to review. She can talk about the subject, read about it, or "teach" the material to someone in the family.

Finally, encourage your child to pay attention to the teacher's review. She needs to know what kinds of questions will be on the test and what material will be covered.

The night before a big test

"Cramming" the night before a test usually makes things worse and interferes with clear thinking. If your child has kept up with daily assignments and has been reviewing all along, cramming shouldn't be necessary. When possible. try to spend a relaxing evening at home. It's also important for your child to get a good night's sleep.

Start the day off right

Getting up early on test day helps prevent the morning rush and allows time for a complete, unhurried breakfast. Avoid topics or arguments that may be upsetting. By starting the day on a pleasant note, you're more likely to send your child off to school with good feelings.

Stay cool on test day

Remind your child to have extra paper, two sharpened pencils, and a good eraser. Suggest that she get a drink of water, use the rest roo, and take a few deep, relaxing breaths just before the test. To avoid nervous "jitters" as the test is passed out, it may help if she silently repeats a comforting thought. Example: "I've studied hard, and I'm going to do my best!"

Follow the directions

Reading or listening carefully to the directions is probably the most important thing your child can do. If the instructions are unclear, he should ask the teacher to explain them. And tell him to be sure to put his name of the test paper before he begins.

Develop a test-taking strategy

To build your child's confidence, suggest that she have a clear test-taking strategy. For example, many teachers recommend the following: Look over the entire test before starting; answer the easiest questions first; don't spend too much time on one question; and, if there's time, check your work and go back to the ones your skipped.

Learn from your mistakes

When your child receives her test back, it's important for her to understand what she did wrong. A test can be an opportunity to see where more work is needed.

Special Tips For Standardized Tests

Standardized tests measure the performance of one group of students against the performance of other groups of students. They help schools see how well their programs are succeeding. Here are some ways to help your child do his best:

1. Get your child used to multiple-choice questions by making up a few at home.
2. Explain that some test questions may be unfamiliar to him. This is normal and shouldn't worry about it.
3. Standardized tests are usually times. Tell your child to see how many questions are on each section and how much time he has. This way, he can pace himself.
4. Remind your child to relax and do his best-without worrying. After all, his work throughout the year is a better measure of his achievement that any single test score.

Test-Taking Tips

Multiple Choice:
1. Read the whole question before making a choice.
2. Eliminate the choices you know are wrong. Try the rest to see which one makes the most sense.
3. Check to make sure each answer is next to the right number or letter.

1. Read each sentence carefully.
2. If you don't know the answer, guess. Hint: There are usually more true answers than false answers.
3. On a true-false test, your first answer is often correct, so it's best not to change it.

1. Do the easiest matches first, and then tackle the tougher ones.
2. Ask the teacher if all or only some of the matching choices will be used.
3. If a choice can be used only once, lightly cross it our after you use it.

Fill in the Blank:
1. Read the entire sentence twice to make sure you understand it.
2. Look at each sentence carefully for possible clues.
3. If you're not sure, take a guess. An empty blank will never be correct.