Talk To The Hand

Honestly and Rarely: How to talk about Standardized Tests with Your Child

The best way to talk with your child about their standardized test is honestly and rarely.

The case for honesty
Standardized tests are stupid and important. They’re stupid because they’re used as a determinant of future success, even though they only measure one tiny part of intelligence. They’re important, though, because admissions counselors use them to determine who gets into their schools.

Admit to your child the importance and the stupidity of their test. When I’ve done this, my students appreciated the honesty and were much more willing to accept the test’s importance. Also, if they complained about their test later, I could agree with them the test was stupid without undermining the need for them to do well.

The case for rarely
Talking about a test too often will discourage your child from studying. Neurological studies show that our brains react the same to the thought of performing an action as they do to performing that action for real. A student who is constantly thinking about their exam will feel as if they’re constantly working on it, and they’ll quickly get burnt out, even if they haven’t worked much at all.

From my experience, most students think about their standardized tests a lot. They think about how they probably should study but don’t want to. They think about how much they hate the test. They think about how unfair it is. That’s a lot of time and mental energy spent on the test. None of it is useful, but that doesn’t matter to their perceptions; they still feel like they’ve worked.

I understand that you need your child to do their work and that you need to monitor their progress. But try as best as you can to limit the amount you talk to them about their exam. My recommendation is to create a schedule for your child that sets times for them to work, and lets you check on them, without the need for discussion. I talk in depth about how to create a schedule here.

After you’ve created a schedule, don’t talk about the test outside of the scheduled times unless your child brings it up. Trust me, everyone will be a lot happier.

To your child’s success!

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