Help Teens Battle Testing Fatigue
State-mandated tests, Advanced Placement exams, ACT tests and final exams: All of these are on the schedule for students at Lafayette High School.
"Starting at the end of March and then going into the end of the school year, it’s exam time," says Shari Sevier, a counselor at the school in Wildwood, Missouri.
Lafayette High's students aren't unique. State-mandated testing is well underway in several states, just the beginning of spring testing season for many high schoolers.
"It is a time of year when kids are feeling stressed," says Sevier, who is also the board chair of the American School Counselor Association. Teens are preparing for the end of the year – when final grades are determined – and they are thinking about what those marks will mean to them, she says.
This time of year can leave teens physically exhausted sometimes, too.
Julie Rains, mom to Hank, 17, a senior at Reagan High School in Pfafftown, North Carolina, says her son is preparing to take several AP exams later this year while he is also juggling other duties. "Sometimes he'll just come home and he'll just say, 'I can't think about this right now, I've just got to rest,'" she says.
Parents can use these tips to help their teens maintain their endurance during testing season.
1. Make room for downtime: Parents should be mindful that teens are balancing academics with leisure time, says Sevier.
"Make sure that they have time to sit back and breathe and do something fun," she says. It’s also important that teens are getting enough rest and eating well.
Rains says she lets her son know that it’s OK to bow out of an obligation if he’s feeling overwhelmed during this time and not feel guilty. She also encourages him to rest or take a break from some of his activities if necessary.
"Right now, he took a nap and then he went to work out with one of his friends, and that kind of helps to clear his head," says Rains, who also has a son in college.
2. Prepare in advance: Students will feel a lot more relaxed if they start studying earlier and longer, says Sevier.
She suggest students get all their study notes together now and start reading them over each night for about 10 minutes.
"If they continue to do that and it gets to exam time, they will not have to be worried about exams at all because they would have been studying for about two months," she says. "But they would have been doing it in such a relaxed and slow manner that it is not going to be a cram situation and it's actually putting that material into their longer-term memory. And that's where it is going to be the most beneficial."
Students planning to take the ACT or SAT should try to register for these exams during a time of year when they know they will have time to prepare and won’t have many other exams on their plate, says Forrest Hinton, a tutor with Embrace Tutoring and Educational Services and high school math teacher at a private school in New Jersey.
3. Don’t fret about the results: Rains says that she encourages her son to focus on learning the material, not necessarily stressing about the exam or the results.
She says her experience with her college-aged son and others has made her aware that just because a student receives a certain score on an AP test, doesn't guarantee that he or she will receive college credit or be prepared for the next level in college.
Her son makes the most of his study time by focusing on subjects he is very interested in or that are relevant to engineering – his desired career path.
Counselor Sevier has a message for her students: "The main thing that I do is try to reassure them that they are much more than a test score."
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