Preparing for Tests

Everybody handles pressures in different ways and you know your child best of all. Here are some ideas that may be particularly useful in the lead up to tests, like NAPLAN or exam blocks. One of the most important things is for you to remain calm. The last thing your child needs is for you to become anxious about an upcoming test. A child who is vulnerable to anxiety is very quickly going to follow your lead.

  • Stick to normal routines at home as much as possible
  • You may have good intentions, but becoming pushy about learning can turn your child off learning, particularly if the end result is a power struggle about learning. Your child will win this simply by choosing not to work no matter how hard you push.
  • Separate your ambitions from theirs. They need to become responsible for their own learning.
  • The purpose of exams is to provide feedback on how the child is going. Explain this to your child.
  • Rather than focusing on outcomes only, encourage love of learning. Do this through demonstration, not talk. Be seen by your child to be engaging with books and learning.

Some ideas to reduce the anxiety associated with exams:
  • Take a good luck charm in their pocket
  • Talk to their friends about anything but exams
  • Imagine some special scene they really like and have them picture this scene to help them have a positive mental image (research has shown that children recalling positive experiences just prior to doing an exam resulted in better outcomes, because their level of positivity was raised and they weren’t dwelling on the negative)
  • Project forward in time and imagining what they will be doing after the exam
  • Imagine what a confident kid they admire would be handling pre-exam tension
  • Play with their pet, as pets don’t experience pre-exam tension
  • Ensure they get some physical activity as this will help their psychological well-being and their physical well-being

You should avoid:
  • Placing too much emphasis on winning or coming top and don’t offer bribes
  • Giving medication that has not been prescribed
  • Last minute cramming. Instead, encourage an early night. Being tired doesn’t help when doing tests.
  • Putting your own need for success or expectations on the child
(adapted from Thriving at School by John Irvine)

In summary, the home atmosphere is critically important so try and maintain a healthy and relaxed home (as much as possible).

Dr Mark Taylor
Guidance Counsellor