Tackling Tests

Test Talk

Standardized tests frequently use common terms that can stump a student if the student is not familiar with how the word relates to the question. Helping your child learn the common testing terms will not only help your child succeed in school but will help alleviate test anxiety. You can help your child be successful on tests and help build his or her verbal skills by teaching these words and using them regularly at home. For example, midway through a television show, ask your child to predict what will happen by the end of the show. Have your child explain the rules to a favorite game.

Analyze (to take apart an idea or ideas, study the pieces and arrange in a logical order)
Assess (to point out the strengths and weaknesses of a main idea through evaluation)
Compare (to show all the ways something is alike or similar)
Contrast (to show all the ways the main ideas are different)
Criticize (to evaluate something by finding errors of fault)
Define (to tell the exact meaning)
Describe (to create, using words, a picture in your mind; tell all about it)
Evaluate (to give an opinion or judge in your own words)
Explain (tell how—put it in your own words)
Formulate (put together or create)
Infer (offer a good guess based on the information provided or read between the lines)
Justify (to prove something is right or to defend an idea)
Predict (make a guess about what will happen next)
Summarize (sum it up and give the short version—to briefly retell or restate, but do not repeat word for word)
Support (give the facts and backup using details)
Trace (outline or list in steps)


Tackling Tests

Although educators give them and students take them,
parents, too, have a role in helping their children succeed in the testing age.

My seventh-grade daughter spent her first two days this semester in MAP practice tests.
“I’m sure you’ll be an expert test taker by the time you take your ACT,” I said as I contemplated how little experience I had under my belt when I took the ACT and later the GRE.

I don’t even remember which standardized tests I took in seventh grade, but somehow I doubt today’s students will forget the MAP. With schools and their teachers under pressure to defend their programs with test scores, it’s no wonder today’s students spend time honing their test-taking skills in preparation for the real thing.

Today’s students focus on test taking more than any other generation. Whether the assessment is a quiz that the teacher uses to check what students are learning or an achievement test that provides a snapshot of what students know, tests are commonplace in today’s classrooms.

Although educators spend considerable time preparing students for tests, parents play an important role in preparing their children for success in school and on the many tests students encounter throughout the year.

Following are tips for parents from teachers in Missouri schools.

Make sure children are rested and nourished.

Make certain your child gets plenty of sleep, but don’t wait until the night before testing begins. Good sleep routines need to be in place early on. Research says most children are not getting the amount of sleep they require. Between ages of 5 and 12, children should have about 9 3/4 to 11 hours nightly. A good night’s sleep with a well-balanced (but not unusually large) breakfast will start each day off on the right track.
Jan Humphrey, assistant principal,
Valley Park, MO


Praise regularly.
Talk about how important it is to do well at school every day...not just during testing. Regular “atta-boys” do more good than pleading with kids at the last minute just to “try really hard today” on the test.
Leah Stein, middle-school teacher
Moberly, MO

Monitor student homework.
Parents should check regularly on student homework and pick out three or four questions to ask the student after that homework has been completed. Save all these questions in writing for the student to go over when a test time is near. Insist that your student bring home a copy of any review sheets to study leading up to the test. Confer with other parents and invite other students to your home so they and your student can study the review materials together. Furnish refreshments and a place to gather. When a student knows you think every test is important, he or she is more likely to think that overall achievement is important.
Ken Curtis, retired high school teacher
Kirkwood, MO

Hold children accountable.
I think the most important step to success in school is to hold your children accountable. When they mess up, don't let them off the hook. When they do a great job, reward them. Until you can really trust them, you have to check up on them every night. It's not easy, but it's worth it.
Jen Burbach, middle-school teacher
St. Charles, MO


Teach students to follow directions.
I teach first grade, and, although we do not have achievement tests or MAP tests at this level, I have my children learn to highlight key phrases in the directions. I ask my parents to review the directions when they go over graded work sent home with their children to see if the errors that have been made could have been avoided if the child would have followed the directions. With my class, I play “gotcha.” I will purposely not point out trick questions from the publishers to see who is following the directions. Usually the very bright students get into the habit of skimming the directions and are the ones who get caught.
Bridget Votaw, first-grade teacher
St. Charles, MO

Help your students learn common testing words.
Parents can help their children learn common words used on standardized tests by using them in day-to-day activities. For example, after viewing a movie, ask your child to summarize the story, assess the plot or describe the characters.
Jan Humphrey, assistant principal
Valley Park, MO

Read to your child.
Read to and with your child at bedtime every night. When he or she gets older, you can both be reading the same book and come together to discuss it at the end of each chapter.
Tony Wolf, fifth-grade teacher
St. Charles, MO


Plan ahead.
Encourage students to study for days ahead of a test instead of waiting until the last minute. Model it if you can in your own work and home activities, such as buying holiday gifts, paying bills, etc.
Ed Wright, middle-school teacher
Clayton, MO

Debrief each night.
Show your children you care about what happens at school each and every day by debriefing each evening. This could be done at the supper table, but, if that's not possible, do it in the car on the way to soccer practice, dance class, etc. Instead of asking, "How was your day?" ask open-ended questions that require thought. Share news about your day at work, too.
Tony Wolf, fifth-grade teacher
St. Charles, MO

By Debra Beckman
Communications Director

Also worth reading
• A Parent's Guide to Testing at Your Child's School  
• Parent's Guide to Testing and Accountability   


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