Using a test to reset for success

12 - 18 years
Student doing test

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 teen 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 a particular test gives your teen a context for assessing their results. So their first step should be to work out if the main purpose of the test was to check:

  • what they knew before they began a new unit of study (a ‘pre-test’)
  • how much they had learned at the end of a unit (a ‘post-test’)
  • their knowledge of facts (eg a chemistry test)
  • their mastery of techniques (eg a maths test)
  • their ability to apply concepts and techniques (eg an in-class essay)
  • their familiarity with working under pressure or in formal test conditions (eg a practice NAPLAN test).

Understand the results

When your teen gets their test back, encourage them to go through the marks and comments carefully. If they got any answers wrong, or had marks deducted, it’s important that they understand why – for example, they may have lost marks for not answering all parts of a question. Look for patterns too, such as getting a particular verb ending wrong in a language test.  If they’re not sure about why an answer is wrong, encourage them to ask the teacher.

Reflect on preparation

Help your teen think about how they prepared for the test.

  • Did they make sure they knew what the test was for, and what it was going to cover?
  • Did they study for the test? If so, how?
  • If they were allowed to take in some prepared notes, or a crib sheet, did they have what they needed on the sheet?
  • Did they look at sample tests, or tests from previous years? How could they make this more useful next time?
  • If the test focused on a technique (eg a maths test), how 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 teen to think about their test technique – ie what they did during the test itself – with questions such as these.

  • Did they read the questions carefully?
  • If a question had multiple elements, did they identify the separate parts and make sure they covered them all?
  • Did they follow the conventions required in that subject – eg introductions and conclusions in essays; graphs, labels etc in science
  • Did they plan out and keep track of their time?
  • Did they use spare time to check (and proofread) their answers?
  • Did they have any problems with nerves, stress or lack of concentration? What techniques might help them next time?

Celebrate progress

Help your teen to notice where they’ve improved compared to previous tests, and praise them for what they’ve learned.

Remember your last in-class essay when you ran out of time to write a conclusion? This time I can see that you sketched a brief outline and managed your time so that you covered everything. Well done!

Choose a focus

The most important step for your teen is to decide what they want to improve next time. Keep it manageable, say one to three key strategies.

Next time I’m going to write myself a summary of the key points we’ve learned rather than just re-reading the text book, and I’m going to make sure I get a good night’s sleep.

If your teen did well on the test, they might want to continue a strategy that worked well for them this time.

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 their students do their best. If your teen is proactive in asking their teacher how they can do better in tests, especially if they’ve already thought about their results from this time, the teacher is likely to be impressed and able to give your teen some extra tips.

Use these ‘cheats’ next time!

Next time your teen 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?
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Last modified
20 April 2020