For Parents: Questions About Standardized Testing Answered

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Most parents have at least a few questions about standardized testing and how to help their child. In schools across the nation, standardized tests play a huge role in how schools are evaluated. In many areas, standardized testing even plays a role in a school’s funding. So, it is important that your child do the best they can on these tests. If you would like to help them do their best, read the following suggestions.


One important and relatively easy thing you can do is to make sure your child eats a filling and nutritious breakfast the morning of the test.

Some good breakfast ideas:

  • Whole grain cereal with fruit and yogurt
  • Whole grain bagel with peanut butter spread, fruit, and milk
  • Whole grain waffles topped with fruit and milk

Try to find a breakfast your child likes that will also keep them full for a few hours. (The key to keeping them full is fiber and protein!)


Another pretty simple way to help your kids do well on standardized tests is to not schedule appointments during the days and/or hours the test will be administered. You might want to call and ask about the testing schedule early in the year since some doctors and dentists appointments are scheduled months in advance.

Know What Kind of Test-Taker Your Child Is

One of the questions about standardized testing which is frequently asked, is “How will my child handle it?” Does your child get anxious when it comes to important tests? Or does your child tend to not take testing very seriously? Depending on your child’s personality, you may need to step in and try to help. If your child gets nervous before tests, reassure them that while important, these tests will not determine the rest of their life! (I have had sixth graders come to me in tears because they are so worried that if they don’t do well, they will never get into college.) On the other hand, if your child tends to not worry at all about tests, explain to them that these tests are important and they should try their best. If you have an easy-going kid that tries in school, you probably don’t need to say anything other than, “Good Luck!”

Save Big News For Later

If you have important news that you know will upset/excite your child, if possible, save that news for after testing. For example, if your family is going to be moving to a different area and you know your child will be upset, it would probably be good to wait to share the news until testing is completed, if you can.

Criterion and Norm-Referenced Tests

When your child takes a standardized test, he or she will either be taking a criterion or a norm-referenced test.

Norm Referenced

Norm referenced tests measure the test-takers against the “norm” group. The “norm” group is the group that took the test before the test was administered to the public. So, for example, if your child receives a score of 77%, that means he or she did better than 77% of the norm group. On norm referenced tests, scores are usually given as a percentile or stanine.

Criterion Referenced

Criterion referenced tests tell you more what the test taker knows rather than how he or she compares to others. They can tell you how well a student is faring on goals and standards set by the school district or state.

It is a matter of opinion which test type is better.

Read more about norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests.

As a teacher, the main piece of advice I offer to parents when they have questions about standardized testing is to take standardized test results seriously, but also remember that they are just one measure of how well your child is faring in school.