How to help my daughter take exams
November 5, 2010 11:56 AM   Subscribe

How do I help my 11 year old daughter improve her test-taking skills?

My daughter has recently been doing poorly on her exams. When I ask her the questions outside of the test/classroom, she answers them spot-on each time. But when she sits down to take the test or quiz, she doesn't think through the questions or gets confused. I'd like to help her be more comfortable with tests and maybe help out with her analytical skills. We've thought about a tutor but they would help with specific skills (mathematics) but not the whole gestalt exam experience. Thank you!
posted by devilish to Education (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When I ask her the questions outside of the test/classroom, she answers them spot-on each time. But when she sits down to take the test or quiz, she doesn't think through the questions or gets confused.

Maybe try practicing:

a) Ask her the question verbally, have her answer verbally, then write down that answer.
b) Ask her the question verbally, and have her write down the answer.
c) Have her read a written question and answer verbally.

Finally, have her practice reading questions and writing the answers down. Practice this over and over.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:06 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it a time management problem? I noticed that I tended to have loads of free time at the end of my tests. This gave me time for review, but I never actually found problems when reviewing. My solution was to take more time during the test. I started reading every single question on the test before answering any of them. Then I'd go back and start from the beginning. This helped quite a lot. Every question that I answered I was seeing for the second time. My brain had had a few seconds to mull over the question and I'd often spot the tricky bits with that second look.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 12:21 PM on November 5, 2010

Maybe she isn't reading as well as you think she is. Kids can be really really clever with this kind of thing.
posted by wayland at 12:25 PM on November 5, 2010

Some TestPrep Company tips:

- Cover the answers with your hand (if multiple choice) and decide what the answer is before looking at the answers. Then look for the "match."

- Know that on most multiple choice tests, one of the answers is the opposite of the right answer (3/4 versus 4/3) and one is the answer that is a step behind the right answer.
posted by k8t at 12:32 PM on November 5, 2010

I work in an academically rigorous school and I can tell you that 99% of the testing struggles I see have nothing to do with academic skills, they have to do with confidence in their ability to test. As you mentioned, she knows the answers when verbally questioned. I would ask her if she feels like she doesn't know the material or if she doesn't know how to take the test.

With that in mind, there are things you can do to increase testing confidence in children. Feeling like they are prepared is a big part of it; giving a lot of positive praise during test prep ("You are so smart, you are going to ace this test!"), make sure they have chances to ask any questions to both you and the teacher before the test, and knowing the format before the test. Confidence is the key to the entire issue.

The other thing I would mention, without knowing any details about your student's abilities, is that special education accommodations may be to her benefit. We have many students with strong academic abilities who simply struggle with written instructions, formats, etc. If this seems to be a recurring problem in multiple courses it may be to her benefit to see if verbal testing is an option. Knowing that she will have the test in a format that she is confident may be all it takes for her to get over this struggle. The only caveat to accommodations is that some students take it as being "different" which can further damage their confidence. Only you as her parent can make the decision of whether accommodations would be a net benefit.
posted by _DB_ at 12:47 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I did research on test taking for my dissertation. If students have the subject knowledge down pat, what tends to help them the most in boosting test scores is taking practice tests that are as similar as possible to the real thing.

You mention prepping your daughter by doing oral tests. If the test she will take is an oral test, great. Otherwise, take a look at her old exam papers and see if you can't write a few practice tests for upcoming tests.

Does she have any problems with reading? If she has difficulties with any written coursework, you might ask the school if it has a writing specialist she could work with.
posted by lhp81 at 4:13 PM on November 5, 2010

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