Standardized TestingEvery fall or spring, public schools go through the annual rite of testing. This process is hardly new. New Jersey public schools have used standardized tests for many decades. And due to the continuing pressures to evaluate the progress of students nationwide, they continue to be widely used today.

Standardized tests administered by schools are objective measures given in the exact same way to all students. They’re predominantly multiple choice, but increasingly incorporate written samples. They’re intended to give parents information about their children, teachers information about their students, and school districts information about the effectiveness of their programs. They provide precise information about students’ academic skills and allow us to determine whether they are above, at, or below grade level.

Before Standardized Tests, Keep it Low-Key

What should you do to get your child ready? Very little. Children will not gain much from studying for these tests, other than anxiety and apprehension. At the same time, you can help make the testing process more comfortable and less anxiety-provoking by doing the following:

1. Talk with your children about the test a day or two before it’s given. Your school district should inform you of the test dates well in advance; make a note on your calendar. Keep the talk brief (perhaps five minutes), low-key, and pressure-free. Explain that the school uses the tests to help children learn better, but that the results have no effect on grades. Encourage your children to do their best but avoid giving the test undue importance. Discussing the test at length and with intensity will make them think their worth hinges on their performance. Parental anxiety, which is readily transparent to children, can engender child anxiety.

2. Suggest some of these test-taking strategies to an older child:

  • complete sample exercises
  • pay close attention to the directions
  • ask for help if confused
  • answer all questions
  • pace yourself so you don’t spend too much or too little time with one item
  • avoid stray marks on the answering sheet
  • look for key words to aid in understanding, such as: not, but, except, and only
  • check your work
  • work until told to stop

3. Have your child get a good sleep the night before. Awaken him a few minutes earlier than usual to avoid a frenzied morning.

4. Avoid arguments or discussion of upsetting topics the morning of the testing. Try to keep the morning routine the same.

5. Give your child a nutritious breakfast the day of the testing but don’t make an issue if she refuses to eat.

Dr. Kenneth Shore is a school and family psychologist in New Jersey, and a part-time instructor at Rutgers. Visit his website at