<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=280995018926808&amp;ev=PageView%20&amp;noscript=1">
Test-Taking Tips for Your Child

By: Darcie Lusk on February 9th, 2021

Print/Save as PDF

Test-Taking Tips for Your Child

Quick Tips in Education

A quick Internet search for the definition of the word “test” reveals something remarkable. Anxiety and stress are never listed as synonyms. However, that is exactly how most of us feel as soon as the word test is mentioned. Although often dreaded by our students, various types of testing can be beneficial for teachers and parents to gauge student progress and performance. But how can we help our students get over their reflexive barrage of nerves so that they can actually achieve success during those inevitable exams? In this blog post, I will be sharing some tried and true tips for relieving test anxiety before and during the test, as well as how to use the experience after the test to better prepare for the next one.


Before the Test

Some of the most effective test preparation approaches are the ones that take place well before any exam occurs. These ongoing strategies reduce stress, improve the test-taking experience, and, if employed on a regular basis, also have the potential to improve overall school performance.


Physical Preparation

Most of us function better when we feel better! Taking care of our physical bodies is a fundamental way to improve academic performance. Consider implementing healthy lifestyle habits with your students all year long to improve test and overall learning results.

  • Hydrate: Studies indicate that even mild dehydration can cause a significant decrease in cognitive performance and that increasing water intake even by a few glasses a day is “key to optimal learning and attention.” Remind your student to stay hydrated every day, but especially on days when tests are scheduled.

  • Fuel: A nutrient-rich diet is equally important to boosting memory and improving overall brain function. Although it is important to eat a healthy breakfast the morning of a test, eating well all year long will help your students feel better and perform better on all of their academic tasks.

  • Rest: According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep that is of poor quality or limited quantity weakens brain function in multiple areas, including creativity, focus, and cognitive flexibility. Sleeping well the night before a test is crucial, but early bedtimes and sound sleep throughout the year will support healthier students and overall academic goals.

  • Exercise: Despite the familiar physical benefits of exercise, exercising for at least thirty minutes a day, or a total of 150 minutes each week, has been connected to boosting brain performance and improving memory. Exercising before a test can reduce stress and help your student concentrate, but regular exercise will support better focus every day.


Mental Preparation

When it comes to conquering tests, there is no replacement for mental preparation. As with any performance, proper training starts well before the big event. Whether your student is getting ready for a weekly quiz, a unit assessment, a final exam, or a standardized test, consider some of these academic principles for optimum results.

  • Start Early: Most of us know from experience that cramming for tests is a risky way to review. Employing more reliable methods regularly will yield more consistent results.

  • Study Daily: Create a weekly study schedule using a planner or calendar. Devote at least a few minutes a day to reviewing something specific, whether it is rereading a portion of a chapter, going over class notes, or reciting vocabulary definitions. If your student has a full schedule, identify moments throughout the day to incorporate short study sessions. Consider using commutes, time spent in line, or the moments waiting for a meal as opportunities to refresh memories and discuss what is being learned.

  • Study with Accountability: Once you have created a study schedule, identify someone that can help you stick to it. Having an “accountability partner” wards off procrastination and drastically increases your student’s chances for success.

  • Study with Others: Plan study sessions with family members or classmates who will keep you on task and focused.

  • Study with Strategy: Incorporate creative methods to make study time more effective. Consider using physical or online flashcards or rhymes, songs, and mnemonic devices as various ways to remember information. Breaking information into smaller segments can make it more manageable to learn, and teaching concepts to a family member or classmate is a great way to ensure your student is well-versed in the material. If practice tests, practice questions, or study guides are available, use them! And take advantage of any school-supplied resources, such as Study Island, for ongoing review.


Emotional Preparation

Although research on the connection between emotions and school performance is relatively recent, studies show that feelings do play a role in academic outcomes. If your student struggles with text anxiety, preparing emotionally can have a significant impact on their results. After applying the physical and mental test preparation strategies described above, consider these additional steps for calming fears and easing pre-test nerves.

  • Allow for Time for Questions: Most people dread the unfamiliar. If the test your student is facing will be a new experience, be sure to allow plenty of opportunities for them to ask questions about the test format and procedures. If you don’t have answers to their inquiries, schedule time with your student’s teacher or talk with others who have been through a similar test. Just knowing what to expect on test day can relieve a lot of concerns.

  • Encourage a Positive Attitude: Although maintaining a positive outlook under duress can be easier said than done, engaging in a few specific routines can help promote a “can-do” approach. Urge your student to remember past accomplishments and visualize success with the upcoming test experience. Remind them to focus on their own performance and resist comparing themselves with others. Finally, be sure they are employing positive self-talk before and during the test.

  • Learn Relaxation and Breathing Techniques: Practice deep breathing exercises to calm nerves and keep anxiousness under control.

  • Reframe Anxiety: Realize that some test anxiety is normal and can be useful for helping motivate us to do our best.

  • Visit the Test Location: If the upcoming test is in an unfamiliar location, visiting the test site ahead of time can significantly reduce stress.

  • Gather Materials: Pack any necessary test supplies the night before the exam. Set them near the door or in a place you are sure to remember them. Having materials ready ahead of time provides calm assurance knowing you haven’t forgotten anything.

  • Plan a Reward: Plan a fun activity or special treat for after the test. Having something enjoyable to look forward to can make getting through the rigors of exams a little less taxing.


During the Test

When test day arrives, your student will need some test-taking tactics to stay calm and do their best.


Start Smart 
Educators recommend these
tips for getting the test off to a good start.

  1. If students have the option of using scratch paper or writing in the margins of a test, they should begin by writing down some key points they don’t want to forget, such as formulas, facts, dates, or definitions.

  2. If possible, glance over the whole test to get a sense of how to budget time.

  3. Read the directions carefully, underlining any keywords or phrases to be sure not to miss important instructions.

  4. Listen closely to any oral instructions provided by the teacher, and ask questions to clear up any confusion about the directions.

Stay Focused
Students can apply this advice to maintain concentration and avoid common mistakes during the test.

  1. Read every question closely, and underline words or phrases that identify what the question is asking, like “define,” “compare,” or “explain.”

  2. Don’t worry if other students finish before you. Focus on your test and doing your best.

  3. Plan and prioritize how to spend your time based on the test format. Be sure to allow enough time for open-ended questions if they are included on the test.

  4. If you get stuck, don’t panic. Move on to another question and come back to the more difficult ones later.

Consider the Question
Employ these strategies for acing various question types.

  1. Multiple Choice Questions
    • Make sure you understand the question, even if you have to read it multiple times.

    • If possible, come up with an answer before you look at the list of choices.

    • Read all of the answer choices. Some teachers recommend starting at the bottom of the list and reading “D” through “A.”

    • Cross out any answers you know are incorrect, and remember that you are looking for the best answer.

  1. Open-Ended Questions
    • Use an acronym strategy, like RACE, to respond to the question accurately and completely.

RRestate the question.

AAnswer the question thoroughly.

CCite evidence from the text to support your answer.

EExplain the text evidence.

    • Make a brief outline to plan your response.

    • Be sure you are answering the question being asked.

    • If you have time, proofread your answer.

  1. Problem Solving and Numerical Questions
    • Understand the question. Identify what needs to be solved and what information is necessary. If possible, draw a simple picture to help comprehend the problem.

    • Write down any applicable formulas and plan your solution.

    • Estimating the answer before solving helps determine if the solution is reasonable.

    • Keep your work neat to avoid errors, and be sure to include units and measurements when appropriate.

    • Double check your results to be sure they make sense.

Finish Strong
If possible, students should leave some review time to read over their test before turning it in.

  1. Review your answers to catch any simple mistakes.

  2. Reread questions that were confusing or answers you were unsure of. After taking the whole test, the question may be more understandable and the answer more clear.

  3. Check for any glaring errors, like forgetting to record your name on your paper or skipping a question completely.


After the Test

No matter what happens during a test, we can encourage our students to use the experience to learn, grow, and improve.


Reviewing Results

Regardless of the test score, encourage your student to review the graded exam. Noting the correct and incorrect answers is a good way to identify strengths and weaknesses with the material. Pay attention to the teacher’s comments on open-ended questions, and use them as a way to improve answers on the next test. If your student is discouraged by wrong answers, recognize their efforts and remind them how much we learn through our mistakes.


Meeting with the Teacher

If your student is perplexed by any of the questions that were marked as incorrect, urge them to meet with the teacher for further explanation. Since the ultimate goal is to learn the concepts, students will benefit more from additional instruction than remaining confused about why an answer was wrong.

Some teachers also offer test review sessions. If that is the case, advise your student to take advantage of these meetings. Teachers want to see students succeed and are usually ready to give advice on how to do so. Simply reviewing the material promptly after an exam will most likely improve your student’s score on a future test, too.


Few of us actually enjoy taking tests. But with a little preparation and strategy, the exam experience doesn’t have to be a dreaded one. Hopefully, these tips will help your student master test-taking skills, overcome anxiety, and ace their next assessment!


NOTE: This blog post was originally published in April 2021, and has been updated for accuracy of content.


Darcie L.-45About the Author: Darcie Lusk is a current parent and Parent Ambassador Regional Coordinator at PA Virtual.





Interested in learning more about PA Virtual Charter School? You can request more information here.


Learn More