Counseling Corner: Taking control of those end-of-the-school-year tests

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From elementary through high schools, our children are faced with tests meant to measure just how well the school year has gone. Schools need to know how much of the knowledge that was being handed out all year has managed to sink in.

While most students may dread those end of year tests, most schools today recognize good testing as a means of improving their teaching. Once upon a time, schools and teachers might have used the “smile and file” approach with test results, handing out test results with a smile, then simply filing away and forgetting them.

Educators today, however, use the test results as a measure of how well current education methods are actually working, and as a means to make changes for more effective teaching in the future.

Testing may be a necessary and required end of year activity, but for too many students it produces lots of stress and anxiety. However, with a bit of planning, tests can be much easier to handle.

A starting point is for students to have a clear understanding of what tests they’re facing and when they’re going to occur. Regular school year pop quizzes may be unexpected, but something as important as a final exam is never a surprise.

When the test schedule is set, it’s time to plan. Which tests are going to present the biggest challenges? Those are the ones that deserve some extra studying time. This doesn’t mean pulling all-nighters and cramming, but instead starting days or even weeks ahead of time to re-read notes, review end of chapter summaries, to perhaps study with a friend, and even ask a teacher for extra help if some parts of the material are difficult or confusing. Teachers want to help. That’s why they often hand out study guides. Use them!

Students also need to prepare physically and mentally for testing. This means eating right and avoiding sugary, junk foods. A healthy breakfast, avoiding highly caffeinated drinks, and getting a good night’s sleep before test day are all strategies to success.

When a student enters a test well rested and having eaten well, it’s easier to feel relaxed and less anxious. If the test material has been studied calmly and carefully, then all that’s needed is a couple of deep breaths in order to calmly focus. The result will be less stress and better scores.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit www.counseling.org.

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