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I was a teacher and I know how important test-taking can be!    I recently had an appointment with our son’s endocrinologist and we started talking about how he delayed kindergarten entrance for his children.  He then told me that he had decided to enroll his children in private school.   I love the public school district that our children are enrolled in (I taught there, so that might sway me just a bit!).   Anyways, he was telling me how stressful it was for his children to gain admittance because of the difficult admission tests.  I was floored. I had no idea that there were tests, similar to college entrance exams, for young children!
These test taking tips for students will hopefully help you to help your child prepare.

Test Taking Tips for students  (including private school entrance tips)

Here is a great article from Nora Martin, of Test Innovators, on how to take a test and be prepared.  She wrote this article for us, with the intention of helping children that are looking at private schools, but her points can be put to use for any student at any school.


For any test, you need to understanding the layout, difficulty level, and content of the exams.   
The test-taking strategies can drastically build student confidence and improve your child’s performance on important tests.


Become FAMILIAR with test sections: Students become comfortable with question types and learn how to best pace themselves by completing timed sections of full-length practice exams.


Learn test-specific STRATEGIES:
If you are looking at private schools, there are now standardized entrance exams required for admission: While the first big test I remember taking was the SAT for college, now elementary and middle school students face new standardized tests, most commonly the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) or the Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT).   You can see practice tests at those websites. On the ISEE, always guess; however, on the SSAT there is a guessing penalty.  Learn the particulars of your exam at: and


Read and study VOCABULARY:
Be a reader and lover of words! You can see a list of 300 recommended words available, at the sites above, in which students learn best over a period of months. Your preparation will serve you well.  Practice their words nightly.


WRITE it down!
WRITE DOWN, circle, underline and calculate as much as you need! Don’t do math in your head! Use the test booklet or provided scratch paper and write it down.  Seeing it written out will help you to determine if your answer is correct.  If your child figures out the answer in his head, have him write it down afterwards as a way to CHECK his/her answer. 


Respect your ANSWER SHEET:

  • Your bubble-in answer sheet is graded by machine.
  • Only make one bubble per numbered line.
  • You cannot cross out and erasing may not work.
  • Bubble in correctly.
  • I recommend completing a page in your test booklet and THEN filling in the bubbles on your answer sheet.
  • The one exception is after your “five-minutes-left” warning has been called – then bubble directly on your answer sheet.



  • Know that your writing sample is not graded but sent directly to the schools you select.
  • Your writing is read by real people in admissions offices.
  • They like the test’s essay because it is their one unedited example of your writing.
  • You don’t need to struggle to impress anyone, but you want to be welcomed into their school community; keep your audience in mind!
  • And yes, you can cross off when you make mistakes; everyone does!


Wear a WATCH: Wear it both during practice and on test day (in case your testing facility doesn’t have an easy-to-see clock). You need to know when your time is almost up.


SLEEP and EAT and MOVE well!:

  • Take a deep breath before beginning.  Practice this with your child as a means of relaxation.
  • Sleep well, starting at least 2 nights before the test
  • Eat a good breakfast with some protein (here is a high-protein smoothie recipe and here is a high-protein muffin recipe)
  • Drink plenty of water
  • don’t study or do too much homework the day before the test. Your brain needs stamina for the exam!
  • If you are taking a longer test, be sure to stretch your legs when given a break. Breathe calmly, and intentionally feel and relax your body.

Best of luck!

~Nora Martin

photo credit: __Jens__ via photopin cc


Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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