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5 Ways to help your child move past a poor test score

Hilary Gan is a professional SAT tutor and a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona.

Whether your student studied the wrong material or mismanaged her exam time, poor test scores can and do occur. Learning to cope with failure is an important skill, as well as an opportunity to build strong study habits that will benefit your child during the full length of her scholastic career. Use these suggestions to help her move past a poor test score.

1. Emphasize learning, not grades

Remind your student that exams are assessments of knowledge. What is most important is that she understands and retains the concepts being tested. One or two poor test scores will not impact her chances of future success, especially if she can demonstrate that she overcame obstacles while mastering difficult material or new learning styles. Allowing a poor exam score to snowball into failing to grasp important content and skills over the course of a school year, however, can have lasting consequences. Encourage your child to spend time retracing her steps and firming her conception of course content.

2. Focus on hard work

Students who are complimented on how hard they have worked typically enjoy learning more and do better on tests than students who are solely complimented on their intelligence. Remind your child that her poor exam score is not an indicator of smarts; instead, it is an indicator of how much work she did to prepare. Some material requires more time and different strategies to master it, which are easily within your student’s grasp. Develop a plan for rewarding your student's effort that suits you both.

3. Use the test as a learning opportunity

Looking toward the next exam is important, but so is grasping the material (as stated above). Ask your child to review the test questions and determine why the incorrect answers were wrong. Treat the exam like an additional homework assignment over the next week or so, and when she can explain the correct answers thoroughly, she will feel much more confident about the material going forward.

4. Find new study methods

If your student did commit herself to the test and received a poor grade anyway, it may be that she just has not found her correct way to approach the information. Speak with her teacher for suggestions, such as study groups, practice tests, or auditory, visual and hands-on learning methods.

5. Address future anxieties

Help your child set reasonable expectations for her next exam in terms of the work she will complete, rather than the grade she will earn. Set a study schedule and/or have your student commit to after-school or study hall assistance with her teacher. Work together to establish reasonable consequences, like reduced screen time, if she struggles to follow through. Remember, too, to reward her for adhering to her plan regardless of the grade she earns.

A poor test score is often an opportunity to learn how to handle stress, hone time management skills and overcome mistakes, and these skills are just as important as the subject matter of the exam. Teaching your child to handle this situation effectively is central to her long-term success in school.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

Photo credit: Grzegorz Kula/Getty Images
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