By Erin Nicole Celletti, TODAY
Taking a math test? Practice your multiplication tables. Social studies? Memorize those state capitals. But there's another subject to know when preparing for any test: The art of test-taking itself.
Testing remains a controversial subject for many school districts, but few students can escape it entirely. And no one wants to go into that exam room unprepared.
TODAY Parents asked teachers, administrators and counselors throughout the country to share what they wish all parents knew about testing. Here's the best of what they told us.
Tips for elementary-school students: Slow down!
1. Speed doesn't equal success
“It's important to remind your child to slow down. Often we find that children equate knowledge with how fast they complete the test. Remember to encourage your child to slow down, check every answer and show their work. And of course, always tell them to do their best, and we will be very proud.” —Wendy Housari, 4th-grade teacher, Legacy Traditional Schools - Chandler, Arizona campus
2. Speak positively
Your language is incredibly important. “Avoid saying this test is so important and that he or she better do well. Focus on telling your child that he or she is prepared and to do his or her best. Tell your child to stay focused and answer the questions the best he or she can.” —Beverly Collins, senior vice-president, support services, Huntington Learning Centers
3. If you opt your child out of testing, do so thoroughly
“If you don’t officially opt your student out of a test, they still have to take it. So, if you pull your kids out (of school in order) to skip the test, they just get pulled out of actual classes to make them up.” —Bill Laurienti, a Colorado teacher within grades 8-12
4. Provide relaxation strategies
“Remind (students) of ways to calm down, such as taking 10 deep breaths, counting slowly to 10, or reciting a positive phrase, such as the Dr. Seuss quote, ‘You're off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.’ —Stephanie Martinez, ELA subject matter expert, Legacy Traditional Schools - Chandler, Arizona campus
5. Your child is more than their score
“High-stakes exams provide educators with an assessment of a student's current skill level in a specific area. They are not the end-all, be-all of education, nor should your child let their grade on these exams identify them. They are a snapshot of academic performance, no more, no less.” —Chris Zilinski, Principal, Lavelle Preparatory Charter School - Staten Island, New York
Tips for older students: Attitude matters
1. It’s not like when parents were in school
“Parents don't always fully comprehend how kids are impacted during tests. Kids often think the last time their parents had tests was so long ago that it could have been the same year the Egyptians created the first pyramid.” —Allison Matulli, executive director, Legal Kid, Inc.
2. Organization and a healthy breakfast are the best way to start the day
“Students should organize anything they might need for the test (pencils, calculator, etc.) in their backpack, and put the backpack by the door. Make sure there’s no last-minute scramble to get out of the house. The morning of the test, give students a breakfast that will stick with them — something with protein, like eggs or oatmeal. Studies show that students who feel rested and fed will perform better on the test. —Emily Levitt, vice-president of education, Sylvan Learning