If your teen struggles with test taking, he or she isn’t alone. For many students, tests are highly stressful, causing fear for even those who study diligently in advance. Luckily, there are a number of test taking strategies and tips that will help your teen boost his or her chances for exam success, whether taking a standardized exam or a pop quiz in English class.
Adopt a positive and realistic outlook. Before your teen ever cracks a book to study, be sure you explain this: no test is a completely accurate measure of a student’s knowledge and no test is worth excessive anxiety. Remind your teen frequently—and especially before a test day—that all you and the teacher expect is sincere effort, not perfection. Putting things into perspective will help ease those worries and allow your teen to simply demonstrate his or her knowledge.
Adopt a few go-to stress management techniques. Teens who experience test anxiety should arm themselves with a few trusted relaxation practices and stress busters. For many students, taking a few moments to close their eyes and think and visualize positive things works wonders. For others, stretching and deep breathing can slow down a racing heart and bring oxygen into the blood flow, creating a calming effect. Talk with your teen’s teacher about effective techniques to calm oneself and stay focused and optimistic during a test.
Jot down the “can’t forgets” right away. When beginning a test, your teen should take a minute to write down (on a piece of scrap paper, if provided, or in the margin of the exam) any formulas, key facts or other important information that he or she might need to refer to during the test.
Calculate a time budget. Encourage your teen at the start of the test to perform a quick calculation on how much time to spend on each question. If given 60 minutes to complete a test with 45 multiple choice questions, your teen should average around one minute 20 seconds per question. So, this means your teen must pace him or herself and check the clock a few times throughout the exam. Managing one’s time well is an essential part of being a good test taker.
Save the hardest for last. Every exam will have a few brain busters that trip up your teen, and getting hung up on these mid-exam can cause unneeded anxiety. Instead of spinning the wheels on a challenging question for more than your teen’s budgeted time, encourage him or her to skip and circle such problems. Your teen can revisit those questions at the end of the exam—as long as he or she leaves sufficient time to work on them.
Leave some review time. Ideally, your teen will be able to go over the exam one final time before the test ends to review all answers and re-read any confusing questions where your teen wasn’t certain about the answer. At that time, your teen should also review the test for any glaring errors such as leaving their name off the test or any unanswered questions.
Test taking isn’t easy for many students, but there are few signs to watch for that may indicate your teen has more than a case of pre-exam nerves:
Consistently panics about exams and studying for them.
Whether your teen struggles on tests occasionally or always, or would simply like help becoming a better test taker (and better at preparing for tests), Huntington can help. Our highly trained tutors can work with your teen to develop the confidence and test taking skills and strategies he or she needs to make high school—and college—a success.