It’s that time of year again: In early March, expect your child to spend hours a day feeling antsy and filling out bubbles with a number 2 pencil. As schools are being held more and more accountable for increasing student achievement relative to state learning standards, additional classroom time is being devoted to test prep and test-taking strategies. In return, many children are feeling the pressure to succeed. Help your child “prep” for the standardized testing by reducing stress and anxiety and reinforcing basic test taking technique with these takeaway tips:

  • Make sure your child is in bed early on the night before any standardized tests. Studies show that well-rested kids make for successful test-takers.
  • On the morning of a big test day, have a healthy breakfast ready to go. Protein – think peanut butter toast, scrambled eggs, yogurt with a protein rich cereal – will help your child sustain her mental energy. Avoid sugar at breakfast – which produces a frenzied high followed by a deep dip in energy levels.
  • Remind your child to Read, Skip, Spend: Read the directions and each question to the very end. Skip any questions that stump you and come back to them when you have time at the end. Spend any extra time checking over your work when you’re done.
  • Help your child battle anxiety by teaching simple, on-the-spot relaxation techniques. Discover together what method works best. For some kids this means closing your eyes for a moment and visualizing a happy, peaceful place, like the beach or a favorite park. For other kids, it helps to take five deep breaths. These techniques will come in handy during other stressful moments in life.
  • Educate yourself. Check out The Test: Why Our Schools are Obsessed with Standardized Testing–But You Don’t Have to Be by Anya Kamenetz or The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education by Diane Ravitch. These books examine the increasing use of standardized testing in schools.
  • If you have questions about the test, reach out to your child’s teacher or school administrator. You might also want to consider opting out of testing.
  • If you believe your child might have issues with a standardized test due to a diagnosed learning disability, accommodations may be available. Again, talk to your child’s teacher or school administrator.
  • Finally, let your child know that you’re proud of her no matter what her score is one a standardized test. focus on her special talents and remind her that she has power to focus and succeed.