For some children, standardized test taking at school is an exercise in anxiety, too. And the bigger the test – like the Michigan Educational Assessment Program, or MEAP – the bigger the worry!
But fortunately, there are some simple, low stress ways parents can help their students in grades 3-9 prepare for this statewide timed exam. Here’s a quick look at what the MEAP is, and six ways you can get your child ready.
What is the MEAP?
Given in October, the MEAP measures how well students in grades 3-9 stack up against other children in the same grade. The 3-8 students are tested on reading, writing, English language arts and math. Also, 5-8 kids take a science test, while kids in grades 6-9 take a social studies test.
“Some kids freak when you tell them tests are timed,” says Mary Ann Rosenthal of Kumon Math and Reading Center in Royal Oak, a tutoring chain. “Some are very afraid of time constraints.”
She knows the drill: She was a teacher in the Berkley School District for a dozen years before serving as director of her Kumon branch for the past 20.
But the MEAP is timed for a reason: It measures what students know and are able to do, and determines if they are academically where they should be.
1. Do some timed practice drills
Although schools may have some test-taking practice, parents can run some drills at home, too.
Set up a kitchen timer and have your child do some problems and answer some questions. Challenge him to beat the clock.
“They’ll be amazed at what they can do in 10 minutes,” Rosenthal says.
2. Learn to stay focused
Make sure they are ready for the drill. If they need a drink of water, tell them to get it. If they need a snack, let them have it. They need to be comfortable so they can stay focused on the task at hand.
“Staying focused is a big deal. If they are looking around the room, it doesn’t measure what they know,” says Rosenthal.
3. Read the questions first
Preparing for a test is not an overnight deal – and reading skills are important. Students need to be able to read to follow directions and understand what is being asked in these tests (especially on story problems!).
One suggestion is for students to preview the questions before they read the informational paragraph. That way, students know what to look for in the reading portion and can better find the detail that will help answer the questions.
4. Key words in directions
Also, coach your kids to pay close attention to directions. One really handy tip is to underline key words. That way, their eyes can quickly go back to that core information as they puzzle through the questions that follow.
5. Get to know procedures and terms
And make sure your student is familiar with testing procedures – such as fill in the blank or multiple choice. Go over test terminology, too, such as the difference between synonyms and antonyms and “greater than” or “less than.”
6. Encourage your child to ‘do your best’
Of course, the age-old advice to get a good night’s sleep and good breakfast still stands, Rosenthal says – “but they should be doing that every day.”
But in addition, as the kids are leaving for school the morning of the test, “Parents need to keep a really positive attitude,” Rosenthal advises. “This test is just a snapshot of how a child is doing on that particular day.”
Encourage your children to do their best. It’s only one test. If parents can get that idea across, it may help the kids relax during the testing.