I frequently hear from parents that their child is a “poor test taker”.
In my 14 years of experience working with students and families on high stakes test prep, I have found that very few students are truly poor test takers. Most students who are characterized as “poor test takers” actually have weak skills in the subjects being tested on the test.
I know this to be true, because all our private school test prep students meet with me initially for a one-on-one diagnostic evaluation. I spend anywhere from 2-4 hours meeting with the student and the parent(s) talking about the student’s educational background, reading habits, math performance in school and attitude towards academics. I also administer timed math, vocabulary and reading comprehension assessments to the student, and I walk them through a number of exercises meant to gauge their logic and reasoning skills.
Sadly, many students today do not read for pleasure. When they do read they read junky books with no educational value. Many students also have weak math skills, and they do not like math. I have 5th and 6th graders who do not have their times tables memorized! My daughter was assigned to memorize her times tables the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade, and we got it done! If you do not have your times tables memorized, then you will not be able to move ahead in math to algebra and other advanced math topics.
Parents often do not realize how far behind their children are as it relates to key math and verbal skills. I hear all the time that the child gets “A”s in school. I can ask a student to draw a dot on a paper and pat their head and give them an “A”, but it does not mean that the child is doing challenging work. Many parents are so busy that they do not have time to delve into what their child(ren) are actually doing in school, and they do not have the background to assess what challenging work looks like at each grade level.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that your child is brilliant just because they are getting “A”s in school!
My rare students who have solid skills but who perform poorly on tests are typically students who are stressed. The stress can come from within (a perfectionist personality) or from external sources such as parents. The student is stressed and they second guess themselves, and they cannot concentrate when the test starts. This type of test taker is the exception rather than the rule.
The way to address stress related test taking issues is to work steadily over a long period of time (at least a year) to prepare for the test. With knowledge comes mastery and comfort. We fear what we do not know. We relax when something is familiar and comfortable. This is precisely why we have students start high stakes test prep 9-12 months before they take their test. Students who have plenty of time to prepare do much better than students who take a cheap, low quality crash course for test prep.
Slow and steady wins the race!
Anne Yount Boston ISEE Prep 617-553-8083 www.bostoniseeprep.com - Test Prep for the ISEE & Latin School Exam Boston Tutoring Center 617-553-8083 www.bostontutoringcenter.com - Tutoring Grades K-12 Boston Private School Search 617-553-0540 www.bostonprivateschoolsearch.com - Your Resource for Private School Admissions Follow my Blog - http://privateschoolguru.com/blog/