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Test Taking Strategies: Raising a High Scorer

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Sharpen those pencils! The spring onslaught of standardized exams mandated by the No Child Left Behind Law is about to begin. Eating a hearty breakfast and snagging enough zzz's are no-brainers, but there's more to smart test prep. Here's the inside scoop—straight from the experts:

The Eight-Second Rule

Does your girl stumble over “i before e, except after c” or the spelling of “Connecticut”? According to Ellen Paxton of the Professional Learning Board, an online continuing-education resource for teachers, a tough word or rule will become easier to recall if your child focuses on it for at least eight seconds while studying. This extra bit of time gives the brain a chance to store the information in its memory banks.

Plus: How to Help Your Kid Study for a Test

Drill 'em

Familiarizing your child with the test format and the kinds of questions he may be asked is always helpful, says language-arts specialist and former teacher Renee Mizrahi, author of Secrets to Reading Success. He may perform better if he knows what to expect. Many state education departments offer practice tests online. Ask your child's teacher where to find them or if she can recommend a review book you could purchase.

Plus: What's Your Child's Learning Style?

Get Physical

There's solid research showing that exercise—like stretches, jumping, and even dancing—can help kids “anchor their thoughts” as they prep for school or even take a break from homework. Cross-lateral exercises (ones in which arms and legs cross from one side of the body to the other) are especially good because they use both sides of the brain and enhance learning, says first-grade teacher Bethany Chaffin of Reidy Creek Elementary, in San Diego. Encourage your child to do them before she starts studying and again when she heads for the bus on test day.

Plus: The Less-Homework Revolution

Weighing Choices

Whether you're debating which movie to watch or discussing how your child might spend his birthday money, these conversations will help him become a better problem solver. For example, you might say “We'll have to drive farther to get to the theater with the early movie, but we'll also be able to get in for half price. Which do you think is the better option—saving the time or saving the money?” Questions on many state and national exams are designed so that students must determine the best answer from among several choices (the answers aren't always black and white, and often two are correct).

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