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How to Help Your Kid Study for a Test

Three-Day Study Plan:

If your child has several days to prepare for a big test, try this simple way to break up the study tasks:

Three days before the test: Have your child reread the key textbook chapters and her class notes.

Two days before: Ask your child to recite key points out loud -- to you, a sibling, or even a favorite toy -- without looking at her notes or in her textbook. Have her refer back to them. Did she remember correctly?

The day before: If the teacher provided a practice test or an online study guide, your child should complete it now. On the questions she misses, have her reread key points in the text or her notes.

The day of the test: If your child is game, encourage her to skim her notes over breakfast in the morning. If she's anxious, skip the last-minute studying and help her relax with deep breaths or tension-breaking jumping jacks. And a "good luck" note in her backpack is always a nice touch.

Studying is only part of the equation. How your kid takes the test counts for a lot, too:

  1. Do a "brain dump". When your child starts a test, encourage him to immediately write in the test margins or on scratch paper any key formulas, dates, or lists he's worried about forgetting. Unleashing these details on paper frees up his brain to focus on the test, says Laurie Rozakis, Ph.D., Farmingdale, N Y, author of Super Study Skills. The info also helps later if your child blanks out on key facts.

  2. Scan and skip. Coach your child to look over the whole test, then start with questions he's sure of -- no matter where they fall on the test. Answering familiar questions first will boost his confidence and save time for tougher questions to come.

  3. Manage multiple choice. In general, if your child has four multiple-choice answers from which to choose, he should be able to eliminate two options right away, says Richard Bavaria, Ph.D., of Sylvan Learning Centers. Then he can choose his final answer from the two remaining options.

  4. Review and regroup. After a big test -- particularly if your child didn't do as well as expected -- review it together. Did he misread the directions? Forget to study an entire section? Get tired toward the end? Ask your child's teacher for clues, too. "Most teachers are more than happy to look over tests," says Geisen.

  5. Create a "You did it!" tradition. The evening after a big test, go for a bike ride or let him stay up an extra 30 minutes at bed-time -- whatever he considers a treat. "This isn't connected to his grade," says Rozakis. "It's about congratulating your child for making it through a tough task, and giving him a positive feeling about future tests."

Teri Cettina, a Parenting contributor an mom of two school-age daughters in Portland, OR, still recalls the song she learned to remember the 50 states in fourth grade.