Grades and Testing / Ages 8-18

How to Handle Testing Season Like a Navigator

As a parent, knowing how to help your child prepare for testing season isn’t always easy. We're here to help.

In April and May, students across the country will sit down to take annual, end-of-year state tests like the MCAS (in Massachusetts). While this is an important opportunity for students to demonstrate what they have learned throughout the year, it can also be a stressful time. And kids are not the only ones who are anxious.

As a parent, knowing how to help your child prepare for testing season isn’t always easy. Should you buy extra #2 pencils? Create flashcards of some kind? Allow extra screen time just to get them to chill. out. for a few minutes?

Well, there’s actually a lot you can do to help your child get ready without adding to the test season insanity. But now is the time to start—not when the tests are tomorrow. Check out the strategies below to create a personal test prep plan that works for your family.

1-2 months prior to testing, focus on:

  • Attendance: Missed days of school equal missed learning time, and the negative effects of absences add up. On top of that, many teachers begin targeted instruction in the weeks leading up to testing, so you don't want your student to miss out. Make sure your student is present and on time each day, every day.
  • Communicating with teachers: You don't have to wait until progress reports come out or your school hosts a report card night. Talking with your child's teacher regularly can provide insight and help you support your child at home. Because state testing requirements can change yearly, make sure you learn when the tests will occur, which subjects are being tested, how long the tests are, and other details that will help you and your child know what to expect.
  • Healthy habits and strong study routines: Healthy brains need healthy bodies, so help your student maintain a regular sleep schedule and eat well-rounded meals and nutritious snacks. Strong home learning routines and study skills are also important. Make sure your child has space and time to complete homework each night, and monitor older students’ study habits to see if there is room for improvement.
  • Keeping things in perspective: State tests often feel like A Really Big Deal, but they shouldn’t trigger panic attacks. Stay positive and help your child keep things in perspective. Learning is what really matters; tests are just one way to see what they have learned. Tell them you expect them to try hard and do their best, but avoid putting too much emphasis on one test.
“Stay positive and help your child keep things in perspective. Learning is what really matters; tests are just one way to see what they have learned.”

1-2 weeks before testing, focus on:

  • Sleep: Students need rest to be ready for long testing days. Make sure they are getting to bed and waking up at consistent times that give them at least 8 hours of sleep and an opportunity to get to school on time, ready to learn.
  • Staying positive: Students can get more anxious about testing as it nears. Ask your child how they’re feeling and let them know it’s okay to be a little nervous. Give them a hug and remind them of the progress they have made so far. You can even help your child develop a Clear Eyes-Full Hearts-Can’t Lose type of positive mantra for testing.
  • Updates from school: Schools will often create revised schedules prior to testing. Make sure you know if your student has half days or if any post-testing rewards are planned. Reach out to your child's teacher or school if you’re uncertain.

During testing week, focus on:

  • Sleep! A good night’s rest will improve your child’s ability to focus and stay energized on test days. Consider enforcing special test-week rules, like earlier bedtimes and no phones, games or other electronics an hour before bed.
  • Organization: Test days are already stressful enough without having to scramble. You can help minimize stress by laying out clothes and packing backpacks or lunches the night before. Leave for school or the bus stop with plenty of time to spare, so your child can focus on doing their best—not rushing to school.
  • Healthy meals: In addition to a good night's sleep, well-rounded meals can help students stay sharp. Start off the day of the test with a filling breakfast. A healthy dinner the night before—ideally with protein and complex carbohydrates like bread or pasta—can help too. If your child's school allows it, consider sending them with a water bottle and snack.

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