Tests and Exams: 5 (unexpected?) sentences to say to kids/teens the night BEFORE they take them

1. Is there anything I can do to help you get enough sleep tonight?

Getting enough sleep prior to a big test or exam has been shown to be more effectively than staying up late and "cramming" - unless the student really doesn't know any of the material.   Doing what we can to help kids/teens sleep well - letting them know that sleep will help them think faster in the morning and remember more information, helping them make rooms dark, encouraging screen free time before bed, warm showers, cool rooms and relaxation before bed can all help them get the sleep they need.

2. Do you have any strategies for making sure you fully express all you do know/correctly answer the questions you know the answers for?

The night before a test or exam is not the time to learn new material.  

However, it can be useful to make sure young people have strategies to fully express the material they DO know.  It's usually important for example for students to do the problems they know first and ignore the ones they don't know until these are done.

In fact, some research has shown that students who use some of the "pre exam writing time" to write down the questions they don't know and that they will come back to later do better in exams because they are more effectively able to put them aside.

3.  What can you do to help you read the questions correctly and don't misunderstand what is being asked of you/make silly mistakes?

Many kids/teens under-perform in exams and tests because of "silly" mistakes, misunderstanding the question or forgetting to answer all the items.  Strategies to help avoid make these mistakes include:

a) Underlining important words in the question before it is answered
b) Always allowing time for checking at the end
c) Doing this checking - actively not passively - ie concentrating while reading over what they have written by using a pencil to focus their eyes on what they've written, imagining what they have written is being said out loud or checking as they go (ie not necessarily waiting until the end to check when they are more likely to be tired/run out of time)

4.  How can you remember to "breathe" in the exam/test?

When we take time to take slow and deepen our breathing in stressful situations, as well as relax our muscles - our subconscious brain processes get this message:  We are safe.  There is no tiger to fight.

This means we are more likely to be able to think clearly about complex ideas.  In tests and exams, if kids can remind themselves to stop, take a deep breath and relax their shoulders, they are likely to do better.

Some students I have worked with use the beginning of every question as a "cue" to take a deep breath, others do so every time they look at the clock.  

5.  Do you know that whatever the result or mark you get in this test/exam, it does NOT measure your worth as a person?

Kids/teens need to get this message from us.  

Tests and exams can never measure our value.  

We are "enough" regardless of what we do or what we achieve.  Kids and teens need us to tell them this.
It is worth giving them this message repeatedly given external pressures which suggest otherwise.  


Our online resource Calm Kid Central has videos and activity sheets for children on using calm words to reassure ourselves, and tips on relaxing our bodies to help us feel calm. There is also a video for parents on helping our anxious kids feel calm through relaxing their bodies, and a video with some more questions to ask our worried kids. For more information, click below.