Taking tests, like paying taxes, is no fun. With the coming of spring, comes many school standardized tests as well as the SAT’s and ACT’s. Many children have anxiety when it comes to test taking but there are some simple ways to help them feel better and do better on their exams.
Studies have shown that teens and school-aged children are often not getting enough sleep. As a parent it can be your job to limit your child’s after-school activities, monitor homework time, and provide structure so that you child can get the sleep their body and their brain needs.
- The National Sleep Foundation recommends children aged 5-10 get 10-11 hours of sleep a night and 10-17 years old get 8.5 to 9.5 hours per night.
When it comes to school and taking exams, children need to feel refreshed and relaxed in order to perform their best. In addition, the brain needs to be rested to encode all of the learning done each day. Memories are made as we sleep, which is why college students who stay up all night cramming often do worse on tests than those who study, then get a good night’s sleep. Those who catch their z’s are able to encode the knowledge in their brain while they sleep.
Our brains don’t work well on chocolate chip mini-muffins, fruit punch, and a bag of chips. Children need to have healthy foods that will provide their brain and memory with the fuel it needs to work efficiently and effectively.
Many school classrooms try to provide some healthy snacks before a day of testing but parents can help by packing some extra healthy treats for test days. Some great options are:
- Trail mix
- Apples slices
- Crackers with peanut butter
- Yogurt covered raisins
Providing a mixture of protein and carbohydrates while limiting processing sugars will help nourish the brain and keep your child from thinking more about lunch than the test question in from of him.
3. Manage Anxiety
Testing can make students anxious for different reasons. It is important to talk to your child about the testing and what it is for. Often students will feel that they “should know all the answers” and don’t realize that many tests will offer both easy questions and those they probably won’t know to measure where they are in the curriculum. Putting your child’s mind at ease while encouraging him to do his best work can often alleviate some anxiety.
Some students are anxious because they come to a test and feel like they do know the answer but just can’t remember it. When a weak memory causes test anxiety, enrolling your child in a memory strengthening program can make a world of difference in all testing to come. If she is able to remember her lessons and content better, testing will be easier and she will feel more confident when she sits down to take exams.
Some students suffer from more severe anxiety and could benefit from talking to a counselor about the causes of their anxiety. Meditation and breathing techniques may also prove helpful.
4. Cognitive Skills Training
Like a weak memory, mentioned above, there are other cognitive skill weaknesses that can make testing more difficult than it needs to be. Slow processing speed can also make exams very challenging. If a child has slower processing they often feel the added pressure of trying to stay within a time limit while their brain doesn’t work as fast as the test is requiring.
Tanya Mitchell, Vice President of Research and Development for LearningRx explains, “While knowledge is the information you acquire and memorize – such as math formulas – cognitive skills are the tools you need to learn, understand and apply to those math formulas.” These cognitive skills include, “auditory and visual processing, comprehension, logic and reasoning, memory and attention. When taking timed tests, one of the most important cognitive skills is processing speed. After all, just because two children can (eventually) solve the same math problems doesn’t mean they’ll do equally well on a timed test.”
If your child consistently struggles on tests or you worry about her processing speed, it is important to have her cognitive skills tested. This can give you answers about how your child’s brain works and if there are weak areas that are making testing and learning more difficult. LearningRx is a local business, which performs these assessments and can provide brain training in any areas of weakness. Improving cognitive skills can improve test taking in all areas of schools and the results are life-long.
Testing isn’t the most enjoyable part of school but parents can help their children make the test-taking experience as easy and low-stress as possible.