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Tips for balancing test prep with other life demands


Common Core State Standards testing is fast approaching, which means students across the country have begun to study. The upcoming exams, to take place in spring 2015, come with stakes for teachers and districts, so students are encouraged to do their best. However, adding study time to an already busy schedule may be very stressful for some students. In fact, according to a report by the American Psychological Association, 59 percent of teens in the U.S. reported that managing school and home life is somewhat or significantly stressful. What's more, 40 percent of students said they neglected home responsibilities in favor of getting schoolwork done. 

The report indicates that balancing school and other responsibilities causes additional stress for students, which certainly won't do with important testing on the horizon. In light of Common Core exams and the difficulty students have finding a happy medium, we've compiled these tips for finding a less stressful balance:

Prioritize responsibilities 
Students have a lot on their plates, from studying for Common Core tests to chores at home. Some days, they just won't be able to finish everything, which is why prioritizing is important. Rather than look at a huge to-do list, students can go down the line, tackling the most pressing assignments first. For instance, if students have a project due the next day, that should take precedence over the assignment due next week.

To prioritize responsibilities, students should see when everything is due and the amount of time each item will take. Vacuuming the living room shouldn't take much time, so squeezing it into the day is easier than accomplishing an hour-long task. 

Parents can help their students prioritize by offering an outside perspective. Ask your student questions to help him or her ascertain which tasks should be finished first.

Assess a schedule
Seeing what students can fit into their daily schedule starts with defining the day. They can write down everything they have going on over the course of a week or month, including time spent at school, extracurricular activities and work (if they have jobs). By building this framework, students can see where they have openings in their schedules to fit in study and relaxing time. 

Students should consider writing both a weekly and long-term planner. That way, they can see their immediate responsibility and their impending ones, such as Common Core tests. 

Devote time to fun
While filling an entire day with productive activities will help students finish their work, it will also wear them out. As such, students should add "free time" to their daily schedules. During this period, they can see friends, watch TV, play games or otherwise unwind. Having this time is crucial for preventing students from becoming overly stressed. 

Your child may decide to stop studying at a certain time each night, then relax for an hour before going to bed. Or, he or she might hang out with friends for an hour after school before coming home and studying. The order in which students decide to study and enjoy free time is up to them.

Study daily
Trying to cram study time for the Common Core assessments at the last minute will result in stress. Instead, students can study daily from now until the exam rolls around. By studying this way, students only have to devote a small amount of time to exam preparation each day - a half hour a day or one hour every other day is good. 

However, use your child's priority list to discern whether he or she should study on a certain day. If your child has a plethora of other responsibilities, those may have to come before studying.

Communicate often
In this stressful period of life, your child may feel overwhelmed. Be available to talk to him or her and offer your support.