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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 4, No. 5 - September/October 2012

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To Test or Not to Test

By Cate Larke

Educators are divided into two distinct camps - those that believe in testing and competition amongst children and those that don't. Many parents, having been through the system (and survived) don't give it much thought until they are confronted with a child upset or anxious about an exam at school.

To put it in perspective, an exam is a snapshot of the child on that particular day and should be treated as such when possible - if they are sick, nervous or tired they will obviously not do their best. Thankfully, the education system is changing, so that one exam does not decide the path for that child and most teachers look at other indicators to get the whole picture. Even the HSC is not based fully on exams anymore, and most university courses have assessment tasks as part of their criteria for checking student progress.

Unfortunately though, testing, competition and being results driven is part of life and children will have to sit many tests throughout their education. Standardised testing helps parents, teachers and schools ensure outcomes are being met, pre and post subject tests will see what depth knowledge and understanding a child has acquired and national testing is probably here to stay!

So the debate on whether or not children should have to sit through tests is at this stage a moot point. A parent's efforts should be spent on making children comfortable and confident with the experience, so they perform at their best when the time for formal testing arrives.


  • Time to Practice Exam Conditions
    Give children opportunities to sit external exams where possible. The University of NSW exams, writing competitions, Newcastle Permanent Maths competitions and the like, give children valuable experiences of "test conditions". The worst that will happen is they will get a participation certificate!

  • Eating Clean & Healthy Food
    This should be something considered most of the time, but by making sure they have a good protein breakfast and water on the day of the exam will help keep blood sugar stable. No caffeine drinks or highly coloured or flavoured foods will also help.

  • Sleep & Plenty of It
    As a rule, children need between 9-12 hours' sleep a night, so ensuring they go to bed at a suitable time, allowing for some wind down time before drifting off to dreamland, will mean they will awaken refreshed and ready for the day.

  • Exam Techniques
    Talk to children about reading the questions, studying content, planning their time, not getting caught on questions they don't know and reading multiple choice questions. Simple exam "techniques" will give them confidence going into the exam.

  • Parental Support
    Find a healthy balance between encouraging your child to perform, without pressuring them. Encourage them to try their best, but tell them not to worry if there are questions they can't answer. It's only one exam!

More Information

Cate Larke
Learning Tactics Australia
Suite 6, Level 2 10, Bradford Cl,
Kotara NSW 2289
P: 02 4952 2444


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