If parenting and helping your kids with homework wasn’t hard enough, you’re then given the daunting task of helping your little learners succeed and remain positive during test and exam time. By using the suggested ways below to support them you’ll be better prepared to react to their needs, as well as stand a much better chance of keeping family life normal and yourself sane during these endurance-testing times.

1. Establish a healthy lifestyle

Sleep, diet and exercise… as important as they are for you, they are so much more important for your little learners, especially during assessment times. Research shows that for top school performance, most 6- to 8-year-olds need 11 hours of sleep, and 9- to 10-year-olds need closer to 10 hours. Regular exercise (even if it’s a game of soccer in your back yard) is a great stress-buster, so it’s a valuable activity to prioritise in your child’s pre-assessment routine. Exercise releases endorphins which will decrease your child’s stress levels as well as re-energise their brains and help them sleep better. On test day, fuel your child's brain with a healthy breakfast. One study showed that kids who eat a healthy breakfast make fewer mistakes on tests.


2. Create a safe learning environment with regular routine

Familiarity is reassuring, especially in times of stress. Although it’s hard hiding your own worry and staying “normal” when you start to see your kids getting stressed; stick to your normal family routine and maybe mix in some extra reassuring hugs. If things seem “normal” rather than in panic mode at home, children will hopefully pick up on the message that everything is perfectly fine and view their exams in perspective, rather than stress about them being the ‘be all and end all.’

Create a safe, organized and quiet study space where your children can study and teach other family members to respect the “learning corner” and the hours set aside and rules made for study sessions.

3. Create practice assessments

Draft a practice test for your child. Writing helps cement information into the brain and the practice test prepares the child for the real one. Help your child observe which questions he struggles with and possibly misses. After he has completed the practice test and you have established which elements still require extra attention you can focus your child’s attention on just those elements.


4. Make learning interactive

Many concepts stick better if you integrate the senses of touch, smell, and sound in fun ways. When various senses are involved, children are more likely to remember facts than when they're just sitting at a table or skimming textbook information. Throw a beach ball back and forth with your child as she recites life science facts or get children to hop each syllable of a sentence when learning about syllables. To help with reading or spelling, let kids use icing to write words on a cake pan or shape playdough on a baking tray to practice letters. Sing the multiplication tables to a popular tune to help with memorization. Learning becomes increasingly enjoyable when it involves all the family members, so maybe pay a family visit to museums or educational sights to make the work children are learning about become real in 3D. Use games to reinforce concepts being learnt. The key is to find your child’s preferred learning method and to make learning fun!

5. Encourage & be there emotionally

Although children may not be able to verbally express assessment stress and nervousness, they may express it through changes in behaviour: they may become easily upset, clingy or fidgety, more irritable or they may display less interest in activities they normally enjoy. It’s important as parents to pick up on these ques and provide the children them extra nurture, comfort and understanding. Encourage the child to talk about how they feel, listen with empathy and explain to them that their feelings are normal.

Just as you may have had difficulty in certain subjects, be realistic about your child’s abilities and what you can expect him to do in school. Your child is unique. Your child has certain strengths and weaknesses and your child is not you. Your job as a parent is to accept your child’s imperfections and support them.

Teach children that CAN’T stands for CAN Try and rather than saying to themselves “I can’t do this” they should learn to say “I’ll give it a go”. A big reason learners experience assessment anxiety is fear of the unknown. But if you emphasize how well your child knows the concepts to be covered on the test, they should feel more ready. Avoid talking about their results in terms of ‘good’ or ‘bad’; instead talk about the fact that they’re going to do their best and you’ll be proud of them for this, regardless of the result.

6. Communicate with the teacher

If you are intimidated by particular subject or section of work, don’t hesitate to contact your child’s teacher. Teachers work with the content and various types of children; therefore, they have numerous teaching and memory tactics which they will be willing to share with you. The teacher may recommend fun activities to reinforce concepts and lessons, such as flash cards or other activities.

When you talk to the teacher, find out how she usually assesses learner’s performance on tests. What content is the teacher going to cover? Is the test usually based on the textbook, handouts or lessons in class? How does she like to assess? Does she often give multiple-choice tests or are they essay-based?

7. Create a fun, visual study schedule and structure

Children love structure. They also are very visual creatures. Therefore, creating a visual study structure for them can calm them and benefit them greatly during assessment time. Write up when the various tests are, when the child will start studying for each assessment and very importantly write up small treats that the kids can look forward to in-between the studying e.g. a visit to their favourite restaurant, a break from their chores the day before a big test or a trip to the bowling alley at the end of exams (obviously tailor the activities to your child’s interests.)

8. Support children’s confidence

Before the test, review past worksheets and assessments and help your child identify mistakes they consistently make. For math, help children improve any addition or subtraction issues they constantly struggle with; for life science, memorise terms they seem to forget regularly. Instead of using a pencil and paper, use a whiteboard and dry-erase marker. With paper and pencil, there's more frustration, because even when children get the correct answer, the rubbings on the page provide evidence that the incorrect answer was previously given, however, the whiteboard and dry-erase marker leave no evidence of the incorrect answer.

Talk your child through what will happen on test day. You may even wish to talk to the school about where the test will take place and see if you can visit beforehand. Boost children’s confidence and teach them to be brave by showing them you believe they can do it. Provide positive feedback for effort, celebrate successes, talk them through what they can expect and encourage them to keep trying and you will have a child who is confident in approaching assessments.

9. Make use of mnemonics

One of my favourite methods of helping kids remember their work is by giving them mnemonics. Mnemonics are memory devices that help learners recall larger pieces of information, especially in the form of lists like characteristics, steps, stages, parts, phases, etc. Researchers say that using mnemonics to help students "file" information more effectively makes it possible for them to retrieve the material more easily. This article by Education World provides great tips in creating useful mnemonics for your kids.

e.g. Colours of a rainbow = R.O.Y.G.B.I.V (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet)

10. Talk test-taking tactics

Test-taking tactics don't come naturally to most kids, but there are a few which you can teach them which will prove to be beneficial to your little test-writer.  A helpful way to manage anxiety is to inhale and exhale slowly. Concentrated breathing is calming and when practiced together can be a source of fun. Teach your child to breathe deeply and while they do this they must imagine themselves coping well during their assessment. If they feel anxious during their test they should breathe in and out deeply to calm themselves and lower their racing heartrates.

Teach your child to take a few minutes to scan all the directions and questions on the test paper when they are first handed their test. Teach them to skip the most difficult questions and answer the questions they are most confident in first while leaving enough time to return to the difficult questions later. Then, if there is time left, they should review the questions and chosen answers.

Yes, assessments are important, and of course you want your child to perform to the best of his ability; however, his happiness and success in life does not depend solely on their assessment results– even if it feels like that at the time!


*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the original author.  The information set forth herein has been obtained or derived from sources believed by the author to be reliable and it has been provided to you solely for informational purposes.


While every caution has been taken to provide readers with the most accurate information and honest analysis, please use your discretion before taking any decisions based on the information in this article.  The author will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this article.


  • November 09, 2016
  • Carmen Kingwill
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