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Standardized Tests - Helping Children Succeed

READ for Success

A child who can read well is more likely to succeed in school and do well on standardized tests.  Here are some reading skills that are important for test success and ways you can help at home:

Comprehension

Comprehension is more than just being able to recognize and pronounce words - it's about making sense of what the words say.  Standardized tests often measure comprehension by asking students to find the main idea.  To help your child find the main idea:

  • Use the newspaper.  Cut out a short article.  Then cut off the headline.  Ask your child to read the article and write a headline that summarizes the main idea.  Compare your child's headline to the newspaper's headline.
  • Use nonfiction.  Nonfiction writing is about real people, places and things.  Many standardized tests use nonfiction text for reading comprehension.  So ask your librarian to help your child find interesting nonfiction books to read.  Then ask your child to tell you the main idea of a paragraph or a chapter from a non-fiction book.

Reading Rate

Reading rate is the speed at which a child reads.  Since most standardized tests are timed, it's important for your child to have a good reading rate.  Just remember, it doesn't help your child to read faster if your child doesn't also have good comprehension.  Here's how you can help:

  • Schedule reading time every day.  Research shows that kids who read every day are more likely to read faster.
  • Have your child read silently.  Sometimes a child reads slowly because she is whispering the words aloud.

Vocabulary

The more words your child knows, the more likely he is to do well on standardized tests.  So help your child:

  • Learn a new word every day.  Find words in the books your child is reading or ask the teacher for a list.  Each morning help your child write a new word on a file card.  Write the definition on the back.  At dinner have family members try using the word in a sentence.  At the end of the week, review all the cards.
  • Have a "newspaper scavenger hunt".  Ask your child to underline new words in an article.  Then look them up together.

Good Health = Good Test Scores

Getting ready for a big exam requires more than just studying.  Your child must be physically fit too.  So don't forget the following as your child prepares for big exams:

  • Breakfast.  Get your child in the habit of taking time for a nutritious breakfast every day.  Even toast and a piece of fruit will provide body and brain energy.
  • Sleep.  Get your child into a regular sleep routine.  Then stick to it!  Most children need at least nine to ten hours of sleep each night.
  • Exercise.  Encourage your child to exercise every day.  Exercise increases oxygen to the brain and helps with thinking and memory.

Overcome Test Anxiety

Nobody likes to take tests.  And some kids get what's called "test anxiety".  They are so worried about taking the test that they can't show what they know.

Telling your child, "Just relax" won't work.  Instead, share these tips:

  • Don't cram.  A good night's sleep is more important than an extra hour of studying.  Studies show that last-minute cramming doesn't work.
  • Read the directions - carefully!
  • Look the test over quickly.  Before answering any questions, skim quickly through the test.  Figure out how much time to spend on each section.
  • Don't be afraid to skip a question.  Don't waste time worrying about a question you can't answer.  Instead, go on to questions you know you can answer.  If there's time, go back to the items you skipped.
  • Remember past tests where you did well.  You can do well again!