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Why Your Child is Acing Homework but Failing Tests


student filling in scantron using test-taking strategies

In a traditional school model, homework is often an opportunity to learn a concept, while tests and quizzes evaluate how well the student has learned the material. Unfortunately, for some children, tests quickly become something more—an immense source of stress.

Have you noticed that your child performs very well on homework—and seems to understand the material with little to no help from you—but struggles on their tests?

Does your child bring home low test scores but can show you, in a lower-pressure situation, exactly how to correct the problems?

There are a variety of problems that can contribute to your child's poor test scores. Read on below to learn about the six most common causes of poor test scores in children.

1. Your child experiences test anxiety.

Tests, for some children, are an incredibly high-pressure challenge. Sometimes, anxiety stems from the way teachers and even parents talk about tests. In other cases, that anxiety may stem from something entirely internal. Your child might worry that they will not do well; as a result, they may struggle to perform to the best of their abilities.

Ensure your child does not experience undue pressure to perform at the highest possible level on every test, especially at a young age. At home, treat tests as simply a measurement of learning—a chance to see what your child still needs support with or where they might need additional help to reach their goals.

2. Your child might not actually be mastering the material.

Many teachers do not grade homework for accuracy but rather for completion. They want your child to receive credit for putting the effort in—and your child may indeed deserve some credit for that effort—especially if they're working hard to learn the content.

Completion scores on homework can also help build higher averages for children struggling with test content. However, if your child's teacher isn't actually scoring the homework material, your child doesn't realize that they don't understand the basic concepts they need. They may look confident. They may even feel confident. If the answers are wrong, however, they may have a learning gap.

If you can review your child's homework, look over their answers to see whether they are consistently correct or incorrect. If your child gets many answers wrong, it could indicate that they aren't mastering the material and need more support to help develop those skills. If most homework answers are correct, even without assistance, there could be another factor at play.

On the other hand, if you can't review your child's homework—a common challenge as children head into middle and high school where many basic skills become more complicated—a tutor can help go over that material and often identify any learning gaps.

3. The test is presented in a very different way than the material your child learned.

Is your child coming home with multiple-choice questions on homework but short or long answer questions on tests? Do the questions modeled through homework and in-class learning look very different from the questions presented on the test?

You may discover that while your child understands the basics of the concept, they don't have the in-depth understanding needed to demonstrate this knowledge on the test. If you notice that your child is consistently struggling, you may find that they benefit from extra support from a tutor.

4. Your child lacks good test-taking skills.

Test-taking skills are learned, just like anything else. However, some teachers don't teach these critical test-taking skills, which could create a learning gap for your child.

Learning how to select the correct answer, how to tell the teacher what they want to hear, and how to break down questions to more easily assess what they're asking are all vital test-taking skills. If your child missed those fundamentals, they might not perform as well on their tests as other coursework.

A tutor can help provide those essential test-taking skills and ensure your child is prepared for whatever challenges they might face as they evaluate their overall learning.

5. Your child struggles with slow overall processing speed or a learning disability.

Some children—indeed, some people—take longer to process information and concepts than others. Slow processing speed can make it very difficult for your child to keep up in the classroom—especially with a timed test or other high-stakes assignments. Processing speed may slow even more under pressure, like when your child is trying to take a test.

Children with ADHD, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities may also struggle when the time comes to take a test. They may feel distracted or have difficulties with the executive function needed to progress through tests.

If you feel that your child is struggling with a learning disability or other challenge, talk to your child's teacher. Sometimes, the teacher may be able to move your child to another environment or allow additional time for test-taking, which can make it easier for your child to perform their best. Other times, you can work on developing test-taking skills that can enhance processing ability and test performance.

6. Your child doesn't know how to study effectively.

As children get older, they may need to regurgitate more information for tests; and that may mean that they have to take the time to study ahead of time. Many students, however, don't possess good study skills. They may have issues with organization or struggle with the skills needed to retain information, especially content they may already have gone over in the past.

Working with a tutor can provide your child with another way to study—since a tutor can present the information your child is going over in new and different ways—and help your child develop those vital study skills.

If your child is struggling to perform to your expectations on tests but has no trouble at all with homework, you may need to take a deeper look into the challenges they may face in and outside of the classroom. Working with a tutor can help bridge learning gaps and bring up those floundering test scores. Contact us today to learn how we can help your child excel.

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