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3 Ways to Help Your Child Manage Test Taking

Aug 17, 2007
I used to have a student who wrote down a lot of information as soon as he got a test. At first, I thought that was a great idea. Until I saw his grades. It was obvious that writing down notes on his test were not helping him.

Another student used to take a deep breath at the beginning of a test, and then race through the test with her feet and legs shaking like leafs on a tree.

Her grades were not so hot either.

When I took a closer look at both, I realized that they were attemping to use test taking strategies but did not apply them correctly. Kind of like being told to remember a formula for a math test but never learning how to apply the formula to solve problems.

You know the expression, "Don't blame the messenger for the message." Well, don't blame the test taking strategies for poor performance. Look to change the application and your child will get the results they're looking for.

Here are three ways to make sure you get the most out of any test-taking strategy:

1 - Understand why you are using it. In the case of my student who hurriedly made notes at the beginning of tests, he didn't realize that these notes should make sense as you put them down. This way, you can refer to them quickly and remember what's important.

He thought the idea was to get all the information down any way possible and then make sense of it later. Of course, there never was a later. He was too nervous and never got the full effect of writing notes to do better.

2 - Understand how to use the strategy. In the case of the girl in my class who would breath deeply in order to relax, she got the breathing part down but never relaxed. She had the right idea but never connected actual relaxation with her approach. She was going through the motions because someone had told her it would help.

Breathing can be a wonderful way to calm your nerves and help your mind retrieve information more easily....if done correctly. She simply needed to sit down at home and imagine taking a test. She could then see herself at the beginning of a test, as well as during a test, feel tense. At that moment, she could begin breathing deeply and feeling the tension leave her body.

3 - Understand what strategies to use. If you have memory problems, then choose memory strategies that address that problem. But not just any strategy. Find one that fits your child's needs and likes. This way, they'll use it again and again until it becomes second nature.

If your child has an anxiety problem, then find a method that solves that problem. Maybe it's deep breathing, maybe they like to close their eyes and picture a favorite place to be, or a favorite pet. There are many ways to relax so that their test taking abilities improve. Find one that fits them.

In short, everyone wants to do well on tests. It's necessary, whether we like it or not. So why not find ways to make the best of a difficult situation. You'll do better in the end and your child will learn valuable tools to use the rest of their life.
About the Author
Jim Sarris is a veteran teacher and author of two books on memory, Comic Mnemonics for Spanish Verbs and Memory Skills Made Easy, a book/DVD that helps students remember more of what they study. No struggles, no hassles, no headaches. For a free report and more information, visit Improve your memory.
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