WARREN, NJ - The school year is well underway and with it comes tests. From the weekly spelling tests to chapter tests, mid-terms, and especially the dreaded standardized tests like NJ ASK, PARCC, SATs and ACTs, it seems every student of every age has something to prepare for. Although standardized testing can be controversial, for our teachers, educational leaders, and the federal government, this testing is meant to provide insight into how our schools are serving our children by measuring grade-level knowledge and skills. For student and families, it’s often a high-stakes, high-pressure time of worry and stress.

Students across the state are now or will soon be preparing for these tests in one way or another: reviewing facts, learning new knowledge, drilling formulas and practicing test-taking techniques. These seven tips can help your student without any time-consuming prepping, cramming or tutoring. Even better, they can help students (and adults too) with any test or challenge to come. 

Learn to breathe When you’re stressed you’re generally breathing way too fast – more than 15 breaths per minute is normal in a stressful situation. At that rate your brain is getting 40 percent less oxygen than it needs for normal functioning. This oxygen deprivation is often why people who should do well on tests, simply don’t. To reduce the stress, and increase the oxygen levels, take a deep breath, briefly hold it and slowly let it out. Repeat five times. Can you see how this simple technique could help not only with tests, but with social challenges, job interviews and any anxiety-producing experience?

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Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep is crucial to proper brain function and studies continue to show that a sleepy brain works harder and accomplishes less. If you need help getting to sleep, have an extra portion of complex carbohydrates before bed. The serotonin released can produce a calming effect to help induce sleep.

Eat well. A quality breakfast is essential for optimal brain function. Dozens of studies over six decades consistently show that students who eat breakfast perform better academically, and are able to remember things better, than those who don’t. Before a test have a meal or snack that contains complex carbohydrates to fuel the brain and protein which is important for attention and alertness.

Stay hydrated. Studies show that even slight dehydration slows the rate nutrients can enter the brain, producing short-term memory deficits, reasoning difficulties and other cognitive problems.

Rely on the right type of encouragement. Studies show people do better work when praised for their effort, not for their grades or results. So don’t pour on the pressure to get top scores, just encourage your students to work their hardest and try their best.

Get tested. A cognitive skills assessment determines the strength of underlying mental skills like attention, memory, logic and reasoning, processing speed, and visual and auditory processing. Just one weak skill can be the cause of serious learning problems that can keep your child from ever doing well on tests and learning in general. After the assessment pinpoints your child’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses, focus on the best ways to make those weak skills stronger.

Raise your IQ Yes – science continues to prove you can raise your IQ with the right methods. A study published in Nature shows you can raise IQ up to 21 points over four years. However, some forms of brain training can produce similar improvements in much less time. A 2014 study shows intense one-on-one personalized LearningRx brain training averages an increase of 15 IQ points in just a few months for clients with all levels of cognitive weaknesses and a staggering 22 points for clients with sever cognitive weaknesses. These staggering jumps in mental ability translate into better focus and memory, stronger logic and reasoning skills, faster thinking, deeper learning and much better test taking.

The best way to perform well on a test is generally to know the material and be able to recall and use it in a timely manner. These tips can prepare the brain to do just that – for the standardized testing that looms and for every other test to come.

For more recommendations on how to improve standardize test taking :