How to Support Your “Tested” Mentee

2015-12-15 iStock CDo you know how your mentee is feeling about the upcoming STAAR tests? A mentor is a friend and a guide. A mentor may not be the person to teach a mentee the skills for the test, but you can help a child identify and improve an attitude.

A mentor’s best tools are open-ended questions to help you begin or extend the conversation and encouraging statements to move your mentee’s thinking in a positive direction.

Sometimes a mentor asks how to introduce this topic.

  • The best way to bring up testing is to remind your mentee that you will miss a week of visiting.
  • Talk about it while doing an activity so that the mentee will be less guarded.
  • Give an example in your current life (or past) about a test, performance, or performance review.
  • Use the “back door” by asking how a friend or sibling is feeling about the tests.

Your mentee’s words or body language may indicate a mindset toward testing that you would like to influence. A mentor’s best tools are open-ended questions and encouraging statements.

How to respond to some attitudes you may see in your Mentee:
Here are seven typical attitudes a student might express about testing. For each possible
attitude, we’ve provided one or two examples of open-ended questions to help extend the
conversation, and sample encouraging statements that can help move your mentee to a
positive mindset.

Confident – “I’m doing pretty well on the practice tests, so I think I’ll pass.”

  • What does your teacher suggest you do when you get stuck on the practice test?
  • You’ve been doing well on your practice tests by listening to your teacher. That’s great!

Note: Sometimes a confident student may rush to finish first. Encourage your mentee to follow the teacher’s advice about re-checking your work. If your mentee sometimes has trouble with time management, you may want to point out that a good performance must mean the student remained focused and didn’t daydream.

Overconfident – “I’ll do great because I read so well. (Never mind that I make C’s in math.)

  • What are some important things you’ll want to remember when you take the (weak subject area) test?
  • You became a great reader by working hard at it. I know you can do that with all your subjects.

Note: Research shows that students tend to overestimate their abilities when they think generally about the test. Their perspective is more accurate when they try sample problems.

2015-12-15 iStock DAnxious – “Tests upset me. I get really worried or feel sick.”

  • What ideas have your teachers or other people shared with you on how to get your “butterflies” under control?
  • I’m proud that you are interested in doing well. Let’s figure out how to avoid feeling worried.

Note: Test anxiety is when a student worries excessively about doing well on a test. It can potentially cause extreme nervousness and memory lapses, among other symptoms. Your mentee’s teachers are giving students guidance on healthy preparation, but here are some tips you can reinforce:

  • Maintain a positive attitude (“I can do this!”) while preparing for the test and during the test.
  • Stay relaxed. Take a few deep breaths if you become nervous.
  • Read the directions slowly and carefully.
  • Focus on the question at hand.
  • Concentrate on your own test and don’t worry about others who finish quickly.
  • Get organized at home so that you are on time at school on the test day.

Clueless – “I don’t know what I think. I’ve never taken a big test before.”

  • What has your teacher said about it?
  • You’ve been doing practice tests in class, so it will more than likely be what you have been practicing.

Disinterested/Indifferent – “Whatever…”

  • What do you mean, exactly, by “whatever”?
  • Let’s talk about some tests that everyone has to do some time in life. [Mentors can share personal experiences here.]

Note: Older students may be engaged by asking if they are interested in ever having a driver’s license. That requires a test. Mentors might also share how they have personally handled non-academic tests or performances, e.g. in sports, music, etc.

Opposed – “Tests are boring. I don’t really like them.”

  • What do you mean by “boring”? What is your physical experience of boring? (Boring can be a catch-all term to describe any of a number of other feelings.)
  • I find some things boring, but I do them…because … (choose: I have to or because it’s satisfying or because I want the good outcome).

Defeated – “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to fail anyway.”

  • What? You’re a winner. What exactly is making you think that you don’t have a chance?
  • I love it when I see how determined you are when we play a game together. Sometimes you beat me!
  • Think of all the hard things you’ve overcome in your life. You can make a genuine effort at this, too

Interested in gauging your own adult test anxiety?  Try this checklist we found on

~By Falba Turner and Joyce Baker 

This entry was posted in Children in Poverty, Children of Incarcerated Parents, Mentoring, Site-Based Mentoring and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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