Is your middle or high school student preparing to take a big exam? Are they still showing signs of anxiety even though you know they’ve prepared as much as they can in the days leading up to the test?
It’s normal for young scholars to feel anxious about an exam that can determine their overall grade in a class or their acceptance into a private school or college. However, they don’t need to feel like they can’t sit still or like their heart is about to beat out of their chest. With the right test-taking strategies, they can quiet their fears and do their best on the exam.
As your child’s exam day approaches, share these top test-taking strategies with them and watch their confidence soars.
Test anxiety often stems from the fear of the unknown. It’s common for students to worry they will not have the right test-taking materials (sharpened pencils, scrap paper, etc.) or be unable to find the correct building or classroom (if they’re taking an exam off-campus). One of the best ways to assuage these fears is to arrive early for the test. When the student can sit in their seat well before the start of the exam, they will have time to relax and narrow their focus. They can also ask their teacher any last-minute questions.
Whether taking a routine end-of-term test or a standardized exam, students should pay attention to the instructions given by their teacher or proctor before the exam. Most of the time, these instructions are straightforward, but occasionally, the teacher will make changes to the test, and it wouldn’t be good if your child learned about these changes after the exam. While sharing these test-taking strategies with your middle or high schooler, be sure to let them know it’s okay to ask for the instructions to be repeated if they miss them the first time.
As soon as the instructor or proctor gives the go-ahead to start the exam, students should write down any pertinent information on a scrap piece of paper. This is especially important if they struggle to remember certain facts, dates, formulas, or lists. It takes the information out of their working memory and frees up their brain power for critical thinking.
After a quick brain dump, students should read through the entire exam before working on the first question. More often than not, test questions are weighted differently. For this reason, it’s vital for students to form a plan on how they will use their allotted time. One of the best test-taking strategies is allocating more time for difficult sections, which are weighted more heavily. Students should also plan to spend time near the end of the test to review their answers. Once they’ve decided how much time they should spend on each section, they can start answering questions (starting with the easy stuff first to get their momentum going).
Whether a multiple-choice question or an essay prompt, it’s wise to read every word of the question carefully. Sometimes, subtle nuances can change the question’s meaning and affect the correct answer. Other times, the prompt requires students to select two answers instead of one. This detail can be easily missed if students skim questions before answering.
Sometimes, young students will read a question on a test and immediately feel their stomach sink, and their hearts begin to race. They don’t know the answer! At least, that’s what they believe the first time reading through the question.
It’s crucial that they don’t panic. This will only prevent them from using critical thinking skills to help them formulate a decisive answer. Instead, they should reread the question, focusing on each word and looking for clues to the solution. If they still can’t understand what’s being asked, they should skip the question and come back to it later (when their nerves have settled a bit). If they’re still unable to come up with the answer after all this, they should do their best at guessing — some teachers provide partial credit for students who attempted to answer the question.
These proven test-taking strategies have helped thousands of students remain calm on exam day and can help your middle or high schooler do their best, too. If your child could use extra help understanding the material covered on their exams, such as specific high school math topics, enroll them in a course at A+ Program. We offer a range of math and English supplemental classes and ISEE test prep courses to ensure your child can feel confident on the day of the exam. For more test-taking strategies and tips for ISEE or SAT prep, contact us today!