Career Strategies Mailbox

The Wall Street Journal
June 9, 2010

By Sue Shellenbarger

Q: My daughter is a high-school sophomore, and I am concerned about her testing skills. She usually gets solid As or Bs in a class — then bombs the final. Her standardized test scores are mediocre. She doesn’t appear to be nervous or anxious over tests. Any advice?
— M.S.

A: Your daughter may be anxious about high-stakes testing without showing it, or she may simply be having difficulty absorbing large amounts of academic material, says Steven Roy Goodman, an author and educational consultant in Washington, D.C. You might start by having a relaxed conversation with her about her views on the root cause of the problem. Explore whether she is feeling anxious. Sometimes just acknowledging such difficulties “can help to relieve some pressure,” Mr. Goodman says. Ask her to suggest ways you might help.

If she is feeling overwhelmed by the amount of material she is expected to absorb, a skilled tutor may be able to offer techniques for retaining large quantities of material. However, tutoring risks adding to any pressure your daughter may already be feeling. If you choose this route, be careful to set it up so that tutoring “doesn’t take over your daughter’s life,” Mr. Goodman says. If you both want to explore the root causes further, an evaluation by a psychologist trained in educational assessment could clarify the issues, including possible solutions tailored to your daughter’s needs.

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