Lea Lewis, Ph.D.
School psychologists are often asked if it is a good idea to prepare children before they are to take a standardized entrance examination. The answer is yes. Preparing your child for testing will reduce anxiety caused by uncertainty. When parents prepare their children for testing this allows the child to understand the process and helps encourage the child's cooperation with the testing process.
When young children are brought to an assessment center without preparation they do not understand why they are there or what the testing process is about. Five or six days before the test explain to the child that they will be going to a school. Since young children do not have a good conception of time you can to show them a calendar and circle the date of the test. Then each day you can let them X off the date on the calendar until it is time for them to take their test. This gives you the opportunity to talk to them a little every day about the testing process. It is important that as the parent you are honest and open with your child about the testing. You may want to tell them that they will be doing different activities, some will be easy and some might be hard. That if they don't know an answer that is ok. No one knows every answer. Encourage your child to do their best. The test your child will be taking is multiple choice and it is ok if they don't know an answer to guess and pick one.
In explaining the testing process, let your child know that they will get in line with other children and go to a classroom to take their test. If your child has separation anxiety, make sure they know that you will wait in the parent room for them. When you come to the testing site you may want to bring a coloring book or a toy for your child to play with while they wait to take their test. The day before testing make sure that your child gets to bed on time. Children need to be well rested to do their best. On the day of testing please make sure your child eats a good breakfast and is comfortably dressed. Before your child goes to the classroom to take their test, please take them to the bathroom. During the testing the children will have a bathroom break. Parents of young children, please make sure that your child is wearing clothing that they can take off and put on easily when they go to the bathroom.
After the testing tell your child that you are proud that they did their work. Keep in mind that your child may be tired. Testing requires sustained attention over a period of time. For this reason it is a good idea to allow your child some fun time and a snack after taking their test. Give your child some time to decompress and don't pressure them with questions about the test. Most children will talk about their experience without prompting once they are rested.