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Most Common Test-Taking Mistakes Very Young Children Make: Part Three

Most Common Test-Taking Mistakes Very Young Children Make: Part Three

posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - February 15th, 2016

As we continue our new series on the most common mistakes kids make in test-taking, it would be incomplete if we did not address attention issues.

This series addresses helping very young children, ages 4-7, overcome and avoid these common mistakes. On Friday, I pointed out that sometimes kids respond in a certain way, because they feel out of their comfort zone.  Today, I’d like to talk about attention issues. For as a child loses focus and hurries, even not listening, the outcome of the test is a directly impacted.

Most Common Mistakes Kids Make Three

Here are 3 common mistakes and solutions in this situation–

Attention Issues

  • Not Listening to the Question Being Asked – On many tests, the question can only be asked once because they are assessing your child’s listening skills. Many kids are used to not paying attention to grown-ups the first time they ask them something.  Does having to ask your child 3 times to clean his room – and screaming on the last request – ring a bell?  Hearing is a passive activity – your ears sense sound vibrations that go to your brain.  Listening is an active process that requires several abilities on your child’s part.  He must be able to process language, then know, interpret, and remember what he’s being asked about before responding.  Listening is a skill that takes practice. 
  • Solution: 1) When practicing questions for a test, prepare your child to listen before you ask.  Make a big deal of pointing to your ears and ask your child, “Do you have your listening ears on?  Are you paying attention?  Okay, here’s the question.”  Do this when you first start practicing to get your child attuned to really listening.  2) When you are asking your child the question, teach him to look at you when you are talking.  If your child is looking at your face while you speak (as opposed to the floor or the sky), he will be able to listen better.  When he goes in for his test, remind him to look at the special teacher when she is talking to him because that will help him hear what she is saying.   


  • Inability To Focus – Tests for young children last anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Many young children do poorly on tests because they haven’t built up the “test stamina” it takes to sit still for that long. 
  • Solution: 1) When you first start working with your child, use a timer to see how long she can concentrate.  If it is only for 10 minutes, that’s fine.  The next time you sit down to work on practice questions, let her know that “yesterday you were able to pay attention for 10 minutes.  Today, let’s see if you can focus for 13 minutes!”  Set a timer and see if she can do it.  If she does, give her a sticker or a little surprise.  Each day, set the timer for longer and longer.  Eventually, your child will be able to sit still and focus for as long as she needs to.  2) Be sure to send your child into the test well rested and fed.  Do not change your child’s sleep schedule in the week preceding the test.  Research shows that even one hour of sleep loss on the nights before a test can impact your child’s score.  Make sure your child eats a hearty breakfast on test day. 


  • Rushing Through The Test Like it’s a Race – This often happens when each question is of the same type and the child is left on his own to work through the questions. Kids seem to think that the first one through wins a prize.  Or, they just want to get through the set of questions so they will be allowed to go on to do something more fun. 
  • Solution: 1) If you give your child a set of questions and she seems to be rushing, go back through the questions and mark each one that has an incorrect answer.  Then, tell your child to go back and correct the answers.  If you find that she cannot correct her mistakes, this tells you that she is having trouble with the underlying material and you need to work on that.  If you find that she can easily fix her answers with you by her side, you know that the mistakes she made were because she was rushing.  Do this a few times after each set of questions your child completes.  2) If you’ve marked the mistakes on several sets of questions and your child continues to make mistakes – she’s still rushing and just waiting for you to help her.  Now you need to need to practice some “tough testing love.”  Next time, give the questions back to your child and say, “There are 4 mistakes on this page.  Go back and find them and correct them yourself.”  3) Eventually work up to saying “There are mistakes on this page.  Go back and find them and correct them.”  Once you’ve done this a few times, your child will realize it is better to take her time and get the questions right in the first place, rather than to have to go back and find all her mistakes and fix them. This is great training to teach a child to check her own work on tests and homework.  THIS WORKS!  One of our Testing Mom members practiced this technique with her daughter.  The little girl went from getting 50 – 60% correct on practice tests to getting 90 – 95% correct on her own. 

Come back tomorrow, as I address mechanical issues!


Missed the first part of the series?  

Most Common Test-Taking Mistakes Very Young Children Make: Part One

Most Common Test-Taking Mistakes Very Young Children Make: Part Two

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