The Best Ways to Prepare for a Test

When struggling academically due to an auditory or visual processing disorder, test-taking can pose uniquely difficult challenges.  

While tests are necessary for measuring grasp of a subject, and their results can impact a child’s academic future, they unfortunately rely on a set of arbitrary conditions in order to do so—conditions which don’t necessarily reflect each individual’s optimal methods for best demonstrating their abilities with a subject.

Luckily, as with other areas of learning, there is much you can do as a parent to help ensure that test-taking is as painless for your child as possible. With some knowledge and sincere effort to properly prepare, tests can become an area where your child can demonstrate significant improvement over time.

If you can turn the necessary work and preparation into a game or a fun activity, it will be a lot easier for your child to get to where they want to be—in fact, it can even be fun! For several of the main school subjects, below are some tips and examples of activities you can try at home to help your child prepare for and manage the challenge of taking tests at school.

Spelling & Language Skills

Language-related skills are a subject where a complex, abstract skill needs to be broken down into small, definable pieces in order to succeed in a memorization and test-taking setting. 

  1. Create Letter Cards—A Technique for Spelling, Sight Words and Shorashim

Spelling is a largely visual subject that relies almost entirely on memorization and repetition in order to master. 

One very simple activity that can help for spelling is to prepare letter cards and scatter them in front of your child. Then, go through the list of words they need to learn for their test and challenge them to create the words visually by putting the letter cards together in the right order.

You can start off having the actual words visibly available in front of the child, to look at when searching for the correct letter cards to place. Once the child feels that comfortable with the world, he can then try to recreate it purely from memory, or even just write down the spelling of the words.

Depending on your child’s level and the nature of their challenges, you can also try to start out by showing the child the letter cards in the right order to spell out the word before you scatter them and begin the game. This adds a layer of memory-building practice into the exercise.

This activity encourages memorization and visualization, which are key necessities in remembering how to spell and for remembering the meaning of Hebrew words. The practice that the game provides can help establish the spellings of the words in your child’s mind and give them a better chance of remembering on the test.

Math Skills

Math can be a somewhat more challenging subject, because it has many different areas and uses various different skills. There are different approaches that we suggest for each area within math.

  1. Use Toys as Counters—A Technique for Addition and Subtraction
    If your child is at the stage of learning very basic math concepts such as addition and subtraction, we recommend using physical toys such as blocks to demonstrate the concepts and help them practice answering questions. For example, ask them an addition or subtraction question, and have them physically add or remove blocks to the pile in order to determine the answers. This use of tangible and visible aids can go a long way.
  1. Use Graph Paper—A Technique for Written and More Complicated Calculations
    For actual written math problems, such as equations and more complicated calculations, an important tip is to have your child use graph paper instead of lined paper when practicing. Often, a child’s handwriting can be messy—especially with loose notes when trying to solve a math problem. 

You’d be surprised how often part of the issue is merely the child losing track of which numbers are which, simply due to the challenge of reading scribbled notes. This can be corrected by using graph paper, which controls what goes where by encouraging the child to write one number or symbol per box and which keeps all boxes neatly organized and visually clear within their lines and places.

The more the child makes use of graph paper in their practice, the better a habit it will build for their writing manner, and the more their brain will be used to following the logic and appearance of the flow of their work when it comes time for the test.

  1. Create Shortcuts—A Technique for Memorizing Multiplication Tables

For multiplication, there are a number of different considerations. Memorization of multiplication tables is very important for the ability to thrive in this area of math, especially for those with difficulty in actually working out the calculations themselves in their heads. 

One tip for memorizing multiplication tables is to use an index card “cheat sheet” for each number. For example, with the number 2, you would create a card with a big “2” at the top, and below it would be just the answers to each multiplication question involving that number—in this case, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, etc. 

Memorizing these patterns through verbal and aural repetition can be a useful approach for those whose auditory skills are stronger than their visual ones, while having them written out would be a more helpful approach for kids whose visual skills are stronger than their auditory ones.

When the child memorizes these cards, and practices answering questions with them, it acts as a shortcut of sorts and makes the memorization slightly less difficult than if they were memorizing the entire equation for each combination. Yet, with less to actually memorize and pay attention to in their preparations, your child will still wind up with the same information stored comfortably in their mind when the test arrives as they would have if they had exerted the extra effort to memorize each equation in full. 

From there, to maximize the impact of this strategy, work with your child to create songs that help them memorize the contents of the cards in a smooth, effortless, and fun manner.

  1. Act Things Out—A Strategy for Solving Word Problems

Finally, for word-based math problem solving questions, our tip is to actually act out the story of each question with your child, like a game or a play. This can help teach them how to turn a dense pile of written words and sentences into a real-world, tangible concept or story that they can picture in their minds much more easily. 

One way to practice this can be taking turns with your child in terms of acting out the stories on their worksheets.

Skills for History, Science, & Other Verbal Subjects

Many subjects in school are typically taught in a largely verbal manner. These include common subjects such as history and science. These subjects involve trying to grasp detailed, sometimes multifaceted or abstract ideas, concepts, or narratives—which involves very different skills than the more clearly-defined materials found in math or spelling. 

One key tip for these subjects is to try and turn them into as much of a replica of the other types as possible—in other words, break down the big and complicated ideas into key, quantifiable, identifiable points that can be studied and memorized using similar techniques to the ones we’ve already discussed.

  1. Bring Back Those Letter Cards—A Technique for Memorizing Terms

For example, when it comes to history, try and identify the key names, dates, places, events, etc. that relate to the area of history your child needs to know. You can then use the letter cards from the spelling activity to have your child spell out those names and other keywords, to help solidify them in his or her memory and to help connect key names, dates and terms to the corresponding historical details in their mind and memory. 

The more you can break down the loose story, keywords, and details into a concrete visual concept that your child can seamlessly follow and remember, the easier it will be to memorize them in a way that can be useful for a test-taking environment.

  1. Draw Pictures—A Technique for Learning Narratives

Another thing you can do is use drawing to turn these verbal concepts into visual ones. Learning about a famous event in the life of a historic person? Have your child try to visualize what it looked like and actually sketch the scene out as a drawing. Learning in science class about how two different chemicals turn into a new substance when combined? Have your child try to draw that process out as well! 

As long as it’s not too complicated to do so, drawing and acting things out in the form of a visual story can be a great way to turn something that feels very abstract into something more tangible, comprehensible, relatable, and—most importantly for a test—memorable.

Looking for More Information?
This is just a basic overview and guide to some of the techniques, tricks, and tools you can use to help your child improve on this particular aspect of his or her education, even in spite of any challenges or hurdles they may face with their individual learning styles. If you found this information useful, and would like to discuss further or learn more, please feel free to get in touch with our team at Smart Stride OT. We are always happy to chat and to assist in any way we can.

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