Parent Teacher Complex: Help Your Teen Ace Tests

Last Updated: Mar 21, 2013 3:17:00 PM

Think back to the last time you took a grueling test. The restless preparation, anxious pre-exam jitters and frustrating periods of waiting for grades are enough to make anyone go mad. Add in hormones and a stressful social environment, and it's incredible that teenagers are able to make it put themselves through finals and standardized tests time and time again. For better or worse, tests will impact your student's academic future. From passing classes to earning scholarships, opportunities abound for seasoned test taker.

When test time comes, the last thing your child needs is another lesson on seizing the moment. Principles, teachers, advisers and other students have already engrained that message. Rather, parents should act as a positive voice of support, supplying resources for success and praising effort over results. Your child may still experience some sleepless nights, but the right support can help put him or her in a position to succeed.

Equip Your Student

You can't plant information in your teenager's brain, but you can equip him or her with tools to succeed. If your teenager takes on a difficult subject, offer to pay for a tutor to make the concepts more approachable and the work more enjoyable. Come test time, your student will feel confident and well-prepared.

Students are especially thirsty for materials that train them for standardized tests. According to, 57 percent of students that took the ACT more than once increase their score. Your teen can get a head start on the competition by studying test-specific materials and taking practice exams. Collegeboard offers materials and practice tests for the SAT and AP courses. Your teen is investing time and effort into this test, the least you can do is provide materials to improve his or her chances to succeed.

Praise the Effort, Not the Outcome

Tests can open doors for students, but they don't determine success. Students that succeed understand that intelligence and ability is the product of hard work, not natural ability. Parents can reinforce this belief by encouraging effort rather than results. A student that scores well on the SAT isn't guaranteed a job upon college graduation, just as a student who scores poorly isn't doomed to a life serving fast food.

By focusing more on effort and less on results, your teenager's self-esteem won't overinflate or plummet because of a test score. When you see your teen grinding to grasp a subject, reward him with a special dinner. And when scores come in, emphasize that the growth experienced during test preparation is more important than the outcome.

Take a Back Seat

When it comes to taking high-level tests, students realize that it's on them to perform. Instead of taking on the role of drill sergeant, become the source of relief when stress boils over. Encourage regular study breaks and force your child to eat full meals. The less you demand from your teenager before a big test, the more he or she will be motivated on his or her own terms.

The next time your teenager acts out or complains before a big test, remember the sweaty palms, confusing questions and anxious waiting that comes with the territory. Your love and support can alleviate some of the stress that modern adolescents face.

Topics: Study Tips Test-Prep College Planning

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