August 20, 2018

Students deal with standardized tests throughout their school years. Here are non-academic ways to help them do their best.


Standardized testing is a routine part of the school year, especially in fall and spring. It’s important for parents to support their children as they prepare for standardized tests (for example, college-entrance exams such as the ACT and SAT; and the Tennessee assessments called TCAP).  What students learn on a daily basis builds the foundation for high achievement on these tests.

It is important to be supportive of children’s efforts on standardized tests and to help them do their best, no matter what grade they’re in. The following tips, which have nothing to do with studying or homework, will help prepare your child for the examination process:

The night before the test:

  • Help younger children get to bed on time. Encourage teens to go to bed early enough to allow a full night’s sleep.
  • Help children resolve immediate arguments before going to bed.
  • Keep routines as normal as possible.
  • Mention the test to show you’re interested, but don’t dwell on it.
  • Plan ahead to avoid conflicts on the morning of the test. What tasks can you or your child get done the night before?


The morning of the test:

  • Get up early to avoid rushing. Be sure your children get to school on time. If you have a teenager who drives to school, it’s a good idea for him or her to leave the house a bit earlier on test mornings than normal.
  • Have your child eat a good breakfast but not a heavy one. A balance of complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats is ideal.
  • Have your child dress in something comfortable.
  • Be positive about the test. Acknowledge that tests can be hard and that they’re designed so that no one will know all of the answers. Explain that doing your best is what counts. The important thing is to make your child comfortable and confident about the test.


After the test:

  • Talk to your child about the experience, making sure you acknowledge the effort such a task requires.
  • Discuss what was easy and what was hard; discuss what your child learned from the test.
  • Ask what changes your child would make if he or she were to retake the test.
  • Explain that performance on a test is not a condition for you to love your child, that you love your child just for the person he or she is.


Finally, remember that standardized tests and grading systems are not perfect; each format has limitations.


This post was written by Tina Woods, who teaches Metro Nashville Public School students when they are hospitalized at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. She recommends that parents learn about standardized tests given in Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of Education explains standardized tests, how much time students need to complete them; and test dates for the upcoming school year. 

For additional information and pointers, visit the Tennessee Department of Education website.

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