8 Tips to Prepare Your Kids (and You!) For School Tests

Welcome to our guide to Back-to-School Success: 31 days of tips, apps, recipes, and more to help you make this your family's best school year yet. Today, day 14, is all about helping your child take (and ace) their tests this year.

School just started, but it won't be long before your little one is preparing for their first test of the year. Whether your tot's taking spelling tests, math tests, or statewide achievement tests, experienced parents have some tips to prepare you and your child for the big day.

  1. Know what tests your child is taking and why he's taking them.
    There are pretests before starting a new unit in math, literacy, or science, and there are posttests after the units. There are pop quizzes and midterms, but, more importantly, there is a lot of standardized achievement testing in school. Check in with the school to see what testing is being done and what it's being used for, as the results can be used for checking progress toward statewide educational goals or assessing a teacher's effectiveness.
  2. Write test days on the family calendar.
    Try using a different color marker for each child, and write in everything from spelling tests to those high-stakes tests. That way everybody knows what's coming and can be supportive and prepared.
  3. Teach your child test-taking strategies.
    Taking tests doesn't come naturally, and knowing how to take them is as important as knowing the information. Here are a few tried-and-true tricks:
  • Read the directions first. It sounds simple, but many kids rush to the question without reading the directions. It doesn't matter if he knows the material; when your child doesn't understand the format of the answer, it's easy to fail a test.
  • Write an essay assuming the reader knows nothing. The best essays answer the question with complete sentences and supporting details. Tell your child to think of it as explaining the idea not to his teacher, but to someone who doesn't know the topic at all.
  • Use the power of elimination. Multiple choice tests are a lot easier once you've gotten rid of the answers that don't fit at all. Teach your child to cross out the wrong answers and choose the right one from the ones that remain.
  • Choose the best answer. Many tests are looking to see if your child can think critically, and that means sometimes there isn't a right answer, there's a "rightest" answer. Let him know that it's better to choose an answer that is almost correct than not to choose one at all.
  1. Be encouraging.
    Your child is probably already feeling the pressure. Try to find a way to let her know that you think it's important she does as well as she can, but if she studies and tries hard, you're not going to lose your temper if she doesn't do as well as you would like.
  2. Put him to bed early and give him time to wake up.
    If your child is tired on test day, he'll have a hard time focusing. Set a bedtime that takes into account how much sleep a child his age needs, and get him up in the morning with enough time to fully wake up before he gets to school. If he has a test first thing in the morning, groggy won't cut it either.
  3. Feed his stomach to feed his mind.
    Mornings are probably busy around your house, but making sure your child has a healthy breakfast option is particularly important on test days. Kids think better when they're not hungry, but a high-carb, sugary breakfast can make them sleepy and even a little queasy — not a good combination for test taking.
  4. Get your child to school on test days.
    Attendance is especially important on test days, not only because some kids conveniently get "sick" when there's a test coming, but also because if your child misses a test, he's going to have to make it up. That means staying after school or missing learning time if he has to make it up during school.
  5. Debrief at the end of the day.
    Check in with your child to see how the test went and how she thinks she did. It's a good time to review the test-taking strategies she used and which ones she forgot about. But at the end of the day, there's nothing she can do to change her performance, so don't spend too much time worrying about it!