by Christina Tripodi Mitchell, Psy.D., NCSP, Clinical Director, The Child & Family Practice of Washington, DC
The beginning of the school year can bring significant change and transition for students and their families, particularly if a student is going through the private school application process. As part of the school admissions process, many private schools require the submission of a test of cognitive/intellectual ability. For children ages six through sixteen, the most commonly required test is The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fifth Edition (WISC-V). For preschool-aged children, The Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, Fourth Edition (WPPSI-IV) is most often required. The admissions testing process can sometimes be stressful for students and parents; however, there are a few simple steps you can take that will help you and your child prepare for the assessment.
1. Monitor your own stress level surrounding admissions testing. Are you bringing up the topic frequently or pressuring your child to prepare? If you feel stressed about the testing, chances are that your child will too. Discuss your concerns with a counselor or educational consultant if you are feeling overwhelmed about the process.
2. Find a professional with whom you feel comfortable. Children will perform optimally if they test in a supportive, friendly setting with somebody warm, understanding, and encouraging. Trust your instincts when speaking with providers!
3. Educate your student about the process. Generally, admissions testing takes place over one day and lasts approximately an hour or so. Let your child know they will have the opportunity to take breaks and ask questions. For younger children in particular, letting them know that they will be working with a person who is “like a teacher” on different activities can often make the testing situation seem more familiar and less intimidating.
4. Prepare your student for test day. Make sure your child gets a good night’s rest, eats breakfast, and is feeling alert the day of the assessment. Morning and early afternoon are generally the best times for such assessments to take place.
5. Provide reassurance. Particularly with older students, questions can arise about performance. Help your child to understand that the purpose of testing is to gain information about his or her unique, personal learning style. Remind them that creativity, character, and perseverance are not measured by any type of test score.
Remember, your child is a unique learner with his or her own, well developed strengths, and that there is no “one” road to academic success. If you feel optimistic and enthusiastic about their educational path, they will, too.