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Improve Test-Taking

Education Expert Advice from Barbara Callaghan

Q: A friend of mine's daughter is a wiz with her homework, but when it comes to taking tests she just does not do well. Are there some possible reasons why a child who knows the work just does not test well? She is in seventh grade.

Thank you for any possible help.

A: Yes, there are reasons why a student can do homework without any problem and then not do well on a test. The good news is that a little extra support can make a big difference!

Homework usually relates to material that a student has just covered in class, and it relies on short-term memory. But a test can cover material that a student might not have focused on for days or even weeks. Also, students are required to do more higher-order thinking on tests: to synthesize information, draw conclusions, make comparisons. So, a test can be more demanding than a homework assignment since it requires longer-term information recall and critical thinking skills. Add to this the fact that taking a test can be a stressful experience for many kids, and it's understandable that tests are difficult.

But parents can help their kids learn to prepare for and take tests more effectively. Your friend can sit down with her daughter and go over each graded test to look at mistakes and pinpoint problems. Once the child becomes more aware of her thinking processes, she is on her way to improving. Your friend can also talk to the teachers to find out if they have insights or suggestions.

Your friend would be wise to work with her daughter to build these skills now, before she faces the demands of high school.

More on: Expert Advice

After teaching in California for nearly ten years, Barbara Callaghan moved to New Hampshire in 1985 and became a principal. After 10 years as a principal, she returned to teaching, her first love and true vocation.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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