Learning from tests
NAPLAN may be the highest profile test on the school calendar, but your child will do many other tests throughout their school career, from mini quizzes to major exams. These eight tips will help your child use their test results to benefit their future learning – no matter how well they did on the test itself.
Understand the purpose
Knowing the purpose of the test gives your child a context for assessing their results. So start by asking your child if the main purpose of the test was to check:
- what they knew before they began a new topic (a ‘pre-test’)
- how much they had learned at the end of the topic (a ‘post-test’)
- their knowledge of facts (eg a spelling test)
- their mastery of methods or techniques (eg a maths test)
- their familiarity with working under pressure or in formal test conditions (eg a practice NAPLAN test).
Understand the results
When your child gets their test back, look at it together and talk about the marking and comments. If they got any answers wrong or had marks deducted, help them to understand why so they can do better next time – for example, they may have lost marks for not showing out their working in a maths problem. Look for patterns too, such as making the same spelling mistake in similar words.
Reflect on preparation
Help your child think about how they prepared for the test. Did the teacher expect them to do any study before the test? If so, what study did your child do? Did they understand what the test was for and what it was going to cover? If the test focused on a technique (eg a maths test), did they practise the technique? Was there anything that affected them on the day of the test , eg a late night or skipping breakfast?
Reflect on test ‘technique’
Help your child to think about what they did during the test itself. Did they read the questions carefully? Did they use spare time to check their answers? If they were nervous, help them think of ways to deal with their nerves next time – eg simple breathing techniques.
Help your child to notice where they’ve improved compared to previous tests, and praise them for what they’ve learned. ‘Remember last maths test when you lost marks for not showing your working out, even though you got the answer correct? This time you showed your working out and got full marks, well done!’
Choose a focus
The final and most important step for your child is to decide what they want to improve next time. Keep it manageable, say one to three key strategies. For example, ‘Next time I’m going to practise my spelling words with you the night before the test, and I’m going to have breakfast so that I don’t feel tired.’ If they did well on the test, they might want to continue a strategy that worked well for them this time, for example ‘I did much better on this maths test because I asked the teacher for help when I didn’t understand what we were learning. I should keep doing that!’
Discuss with the teacher
Teachers want to help your child do their best, so encourage your child to seek their help if they have any problems with tests, or questions about their results. When your child is younger you might like to go along. As your child gets older, encourage them to approach the teacher without you, and then tell you what happened.
Use these ‘cheats’ next time!
Next time your child has a test, they can focus their efforts by asking themselves the same types of questions BEFORE the test:
- what is the purpose of the test?
- what do I need to do to prepare for it?
- what ‘techniques’ do I need to remember during the test?
- when I looked at my last test results, what strategies did I decide would help me the most with my next test?