My son is smart but doesn’t perform well on tests. How can I help him do better?February 28, 2014
By YOU Program Facilitator
Question: My son is smart and does well in school but doesn't perform well on tests. I'm worried he won't get into good colleges because of his SAT scores. What can I do to help him?
Answer: People refer to this phenomenon as the Poor Test-Taker Syndrome. Don’t worry, it’s not a disease and it can be changed. It requires strategy, practice, and patience.
Try these tips that might help your son perform better on tests:
- Practice makes perfect. Create practice tests for your son in the subject he will be tested on. After he completes a test, grade it and let him know which answers were incorrect. However, don’t tell him the right answers. Let him retry the questions he missed and learn the right answers by rereading the text. Keep practicing!
- Calm down. Exams are often timed, which can result in anxiety for your son. He might be rushing through the questions and making careless mistakes. Remind him to breathe deeply before the exam starts and remember that he is a great student in class. These exercises should help him focus and remember that he already knows what the test is about.
- Learn concepts instead of memorizing. Memorizing is not always useful if your son is under pressure. Help him understand the concepts behind the facts he is studying. After he reads a passage, ask him to briefly summarize what he just read, which will help him understand the concept rather than memorize an answer. If he understands the material, he should perform better on the test.
If none of these strategies are helping your son with his test scores, talk to his teacher, school staff, or your healthcare provider to determine if he has a mild learning disability.
We discuss addressing difficulties, emphasis on critical thinking, and homework support in greater detail in in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher three-book series. Please refer to pages 50, 66, and 85 in Through Elementary and Middle School for more information.