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Preparing for Testing, Dealing with Failure

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Felice Kaufmann, Ph.D.

Q: My 9-year-old daughter scored in the 98th percentile on the FCAT during both second and third grade, and has been recommended by her teacher for gifted testing. Are there Internet resources for pre-testing help, or sample tests for gifted children that I can use to help prepare her for this test? Also, what advice can you give us both in case she does not pass?

A: My first question to you is: How does your daughter feel about taking the test? If she's like most children, she's probably a little bit apprehensive about it. Consequently, I wonder whether taking practice tests might be more upsetting rather than helpful.

The most important thing you can do is help her relax about it as much as possible. You might want to investigate stress-management techniques for children and allow her to practice relaxing so that she can use these techniques in a testing situation. The book Stress Can Really Get on Your Nerves by Trevor Romain and Elizabeth Verdick is filled with good ideas and strategies that are appropriate for children your daughter's age.

Above all, you need to stay calm about the test, because she will pick up on any worries or anxieties you have. This might inadvertently make her think that your feelings about her are dependent on whether or not she achieves. Before and after the test, let her know that you love and value her no matter how she does on the test, or whether or not she gets into the gifted program. Try to use this opportunity to teach her skills of handling stress and disappointment by telling her how you have coped with difficult circumstances in your life. Those are the kinds of skills that she'll be able to use her entire life in a wide variety of situations.

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Felice Kaufmann is an independent consultant in gifted child education. Kaufman has been a classroom teacher and counselor of gifted children, grades K-12, and a professor at Auburn University and the Universities of New Orleans and Kentucky, where she created teacher training programs in gifted child education. She has served on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Gifted Children and the Executive Board of the Association of the Gifted.

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