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News from Mathnasium of Lakewood

Test Taking Tips and Strategies for STAAR‏

Apr 18, 2015

STAAR is almost here, and students are starting to get stressed out about all the standardized testing. Parents, teachers and administrators can sometimes unwittingly contribute to the anxiety, so by the time the day actually arrives, students’ anxiety is ramped up.

Test anxiety is when a student excessively worries about doing well on a test. This can become a major hindrance on test performance and cause extreme nervousness and memory lapses. Allowing anxiety to take over the part of your brain where the Working Memory is located, is like letting an elephant into a very small room. It takes up all the space, and no real work can be done. Helping students to have less anxiety is to allow more space for actual thinking and doing.

One of the ways to lessen anxiety is to practice some relaxation techniques, like taking several deep breaths between questions, to help refocus the mind. Reminding themselves that they have practiced similar questions many times before and that they are well prepared will help build confidence and reduce anxiety.

Remember that they have four hours to do 52 questions. There is no reason to run out of time, but there is no reason to be the first one done. Everyone works at his or her own pace, and students need to realize that it is okay to be one of the last or the last one to be done. If your child has any academic accommodations, they may be allowed extra time, or be allowed to take the test in a small group room.

Students can do the easy questions first, and come back to the more difficult ones, but it is important in a test that is machine scored, that the student not get the bubbled answers out of sync. This could cause errors in the grading, and a much lower score if the student gets the answers mixed up. It would be better for students to mark their test booklets for questions they want to go back to, and select an answer to fill in as they go along, to prevent that from happening. Then, the student can go back and recheck answers they are unsure about.

Parents can help by making sure that their student has a good night’s sleep and healthy breakfast the day of the test. Parents should encourage a positive attitude and for students to do their personal best.

Finally, the STAAR test this year is not “counting,” as it is the first year it is being administered by the state, based on the new curriculum. There are no retests for 5th and 8th grade, and while it is always preferable to do well on a test, even the state realizes that this year is somewhat experimental. You will not receive notification of your student’s results until sometime in the summer. Discussions of promotion or being held back will be based on other criteria. This should help to reduce anxiety, at least for the parents!