Just because your child is smart doesn’t mean he or she is going to ace the SATs or other standardized tests that students must take this time of year.  There are lots of factors that contribute to test performance results. Here are four of the most important factors to test taking success, along with some tips on how to help.

Poor nutrition      

To keep cognitive function at its peak, the brain needs “good” fuel. Add the wrong kind of fuel (like processed sugars) or not enough fuel and it’s not going to perform well. “People don’t realize a child’s brain is burning through energy very, very rapidly and needs consistent fuel,” says registered dietitian Martha Rosenau of Colorado Springs. She says kids need to eat meals balanced with a portion of healthy carbohydrates, protein and fat. “Kids would be short-changing themselves in terms of production, concentration and productivity if they try to do brain work on an empty stomach.”

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How to help: Look for ways to incorporate healthy “brain foods” into your family’s diet on a regular basis. Beans, olive oil, walnuts, blueberries and foods rich in Omega-3s like wild salmon, mackerel or tuna are a great start. A well balanced diet rich in Omega 3s is critical for optimal brain health and performance. 

Too busy to shop for the freshest ingredients or to eat only home cooked foods? Consider adding a supplement like Mila to your diet. Mila, a whole raw food, is the perfect addition to any diet.  It is a blend of chia seeds that have been carefully selected from various regions in the world to maximize nutritional value.  It is gluten-free, sugar-free and trans-fat free, and has no unpleasant taste or smell.  Mila is a wonderful way to easily add not only Omega 3s but protein, fiber, and antioxidants to your families’ diet – all of which are important to optimal brain fitness and overall feelings of health and wellbeing. For more information about Mila, visit www.lrxwarren.lifemax.net.

Anxiety

Whether genetic or situational, extreme worry can cause physical responses in the body that hinder a child from performing well on a test.

How to help: Teach your child relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing or visualization (where they picture themselves doing well on a test). You can also go over material with a child the night before a test to help them feel more prepared. In severe cases, consider seeking professional help from someone trained to work with child/teen anxiety.

Lack of sleep

Sleep deprivation is known to decrease everything from attentiveness and response time to short-term memory and performance. Unfortunately, lack of sleep is a common issue for school-aged children and teens, but not always for the same reasons. For those who are heavily active in extra-curricular activities, it could mean being too alert to fall asleep after a late-night of basketball practice or staying up late to finish homework due to a busy evening of activities. We are all overscheduled these days and it can be hard to unwind.

The Nemours Foundation recommends 10 hours of sleep for kids 6 to 9; 9 hours for 10- to 12-year-olds; and 8 to 9.5 for teens.

How to help:  Work to create relaxing routines (warm bath, time to decompress, reading) and try to stick to a schedule. Encourage your child or teen to go to bed at the same time each night and to avoid foods that contain sugar, food dyes or caffeine, especially late in the day.

Weak cognitive skills

The SAT Reasoning Test is broken down into three sections: math, critical reading and writing. The test, which is published and developed by the College Board, takes three hours and 45 minutes. According to the College Board, the SAT measures several pre-college skills: literacy and writing skills, and analytical and problem-solving skills. And because the test is more cognitive-focused than knowledge-focused, many high-IQ societies like Mensa accept SAT scores as part of their admission criteria.

Similar to the SAT, the ACT tests English, Math, Reading and Science reasoning. There is also an optional writing test that measures how well a student can plan and compose an essay. Each section is timed and although some of the test is knowledge-based, almost all is a test of cognitive skills.

“While knowledge is the information you acquire and memorize – such as math formulas – cognitive skills are the tools you need to learn, understand and apply to those math formulas,” explains Tanya Mitchell, Vice President of Research and Development for LearningRx, a national brain-training company.  “They include auditory and visual processing, comprehension, logic and reasoning, memory and attention. When taking timed tests, one of the most important cognitive skills is processing speed. After all, just because two children can (eventually) solve the same math problems doesn’t mean they’ll do equally well on a timed test.”

How to help: Enroll your child in a cognitive skills training program. Unlike tutoring, which focuses on knowledge of a particular subject (such as history), cognitive skills training works to strengthen the fundamental learning tools needed to excel on all types of timed tests that measure intelligence – not knowledge.  For more information about LearningRx cognitive skills training, visit www.learningrx.com/warren.

Taking a timed test can make even the most well adjusted child anxious. You can’t take it for them, but you can help prepare them with a nutritious breakfast, plenty of sleep, relaxation techniques, and strong cognitive skills.