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How Can You Help Your Child Prepare for Standardized Tests?

Two words that can strike fear into any student's heart are "standardized test." Whether you consider them to be a necessary evil or a relevant educational endeavor, standardized testing is not only here to stay, but can also be pivotal to your child's ability to progress to the next grade. Proper preparation for these tests is essential but can't be crammed into a few days. Parental involvement in the study process has been shown to help kids score higher than they would otherwise and can also help assuage the anxiety most kids feel leading up to test day. Parents can help their kids get started by communicating with the teacher and asking questions that can help map out a studying game plan. Whether you love the tests or hate them, here are some strategies that can help your child do well on testing day.

Talk to the Teacher – If you are not sure about the standardized tests your child will be required to take, ask the teacher which tests will be given and when as early in the term as possible to allow for ample time to prepare. Additional questions to ask include:

  • How do you recommend I help my child prepare?
  • What subjects are being tested?
  • What is the test called and what is the format it will be in (essays, multiple choice, or other form)?
  • How will the test be used?
  • How does the test affect the school's rating?
  • How will the test affect my child's class placement and promotion to the next grade?
  • Is this an achievement or an aptitude test and should my child's preparation differ between the two?
  • How much class time will be devoted to test prep?
  • Is the class curriculum based upon the test questions?
  • Does the school provide additional tutoring opportunities for the test after school or at any other time?
  • What should my child bring on test day?
  • Is my child eligible for extra assessment accommodations, such as extra time to complete the test?
  • What happens if my child misses the test due to illness or for any other reason?
  • What happens if my child does not do well on the test?
  • Can my child retake the test?
  • How do I interpret the results?
  • If we want to opt out of the test, can my child supply an alternative assessment of their work, such as a portfolio?

Build good study habits – Kids who do well on standardized tests are often the children who hand in homework on time, have good attendance records and also experience a healthy respect for school and their educators. Support your children to do their homework and extra credit projects and also encourage them to read for pleasure, no matter what their choice of reading material is.

Have practice tests on hand – There are practice tests available online which can be downloaded, borrowed at the library or bought at the local bookstore. Build in practice test-taking as early in the term as possible. This should be done in addition to homework. All kids have strengths and weaknesses. Have your child focus on the areas where improvement is needed and make sure they are also conversant in test-taking strategies as outlined by the teacher, such as the value of making educated guesses versus leaving questions blank if you don't know the answer.

Be prepared on test day – Have a list of all of the supplies your child needs to bring, such as sharpened pencils, erasers or a calculator. Make sure everything is prepared the night before to avoid unnecessary scrambling and stress the morning of the test.

Sleep and eat well – The night before the test, do your best to keep your household calm and stress free. Many teachers feel that the number one key to testing success is getting a good night's sleep and eating breakfast in the morning. Make sure your child gets into bed early, in as relaxed a frame of mind as possible, and prepare a healthy breakfast the morning of the test. Breakfast time can also be used to simply be with your child, supporting and reassuring them.

Stay calm and be positive – If your child is prepared, they will most likely feel confident and relaxed. Help them by displaying a calm, upbeat demeanor they can mirror.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at

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