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

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

posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - February 12th, 2016

We are continuing our new series on the most common mistakes kids make in test-taking.  

This series addresses helping very young children, ages 4-7, overcome and avoid these common mistakes.  For instance, in yesterday’s post, we recommended that you observe your child working through a set of practice questions.  This will give you specifics to focus upon, when trying to help your child.  When helping them, you may find that they are responding in a certain way, because they feel out of their comfort zone.

Most Common Mistakes Kids Make Two

Here are 3 common mistakes and solutions in this situation–

Being Completely Out of Their Comfort Zone:

  • Saying “I don’t know” – If your child is being tested by a psychologist or even one-on-one with a test proctor, many young kids will shrug and say “I don’t know,” even if they do know, just because they aren’t sure. Having observed children actually being tested, I have seen this many times.  A good psychologist will try to elicit a better answer from the child, but many proctors are not allowed to say, “Oh come on, give it a try!”  I can just hear their parent’s response if they could see their child saying “I don’t know” behind closed doors – they’d yell, “Yes, you do know!”
  • Solution: When practicing with your child, never accept her saying “I don’t know.”  Teach her to always give it her best guess, even when she isn’t sure. 


  • Being Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Strange Tester – If you have a very shy child who will be tested by a psychologist or one-on-one with a test proctor, there are many things you can do in advance to teach your child to be more comfortable with this person he doesn’t know.
  • Solution: 1) Give your child opportunities to talk with safe strangers like clerks in stores, waiters, your grown up friends, other teachers at your child’s school; 2) Tell him that the tester is “a special teacher, just like your own teacher, Mrs. So-and-So.  You are comfortable with Mrs. So-and-So, and you’ll be comfortable with this special teacher; 3) Don’t rush into the testing site at the last minute. Make sure your child has time to make a smooth transition from being with you to taking the test; 4) Listen to our session on making shy children comfortable in a testing situation.


  • Not Understanding What They Are Being Asked to Do – This is especially common in very young children who have no experience taking a test. With very young kids, they are usually asked a question, which they must listen to.  In front of them, there are 4 or 5 pictures.  One picture represents the correct answer; the other pictures represent wrong answers.  When asked for the answer, a very young child may choose the picture that is the prettiest, most colorful, or the one that represents something that interests her most.  They don’t understand that they must listen to the question being asked, that the pictures they are looking at represent possible answer choices and only one is right.  
  • Solution: You will need to talk through several questions like that with your child.  Explain to her that she must listen to the question you are asking.  Look at the pictures together and talk about why one picture is the right answer and the others are wrong.  After doing this with several questions, your child will understand what she is being asked to do. 

Prepare them in advance, give them plenty of time to arrive and meet the proctor, and teach them, by repetition, what the test will be like.  All these will give your child just the boost they need to feel comfortable and do their very best!

Come back on Monday for the next part in our series, where we will discuss attention issues!


Missed the first one in the series?  Read here: Most Common Test-Taking Mistakes Very Young Children Make: Part One

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