It is test taking season. Kids in school are being bombarded by tests. In Virginia, we have the Standards of Learning (SOLs), which begin in the third grade. Even prior to third grade SOLs, Fairfax County Schools begin testing students with the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT) in first grade and the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) in second . And once they reach high school, many are taking AP or IB exams, SATs and/or ACTs for college entrance.
These tests are stressful enough on students who are fair to excellent test takers, but for those kids who are not good test takers, they are dreadfully painful and often upsetting. The stress is felt by the parents as well.
Why are some kids poor test takers? The reasons can vary, but as a developmental optometrist, I can say with certainty that anyone with a learning-related vision problem will have a harder time on standardized test than their visually-efficient peers. Below are some ways poor visual skills will affect a student taking a standardized test.
- Answering questions slowly and not finishing in time. Standardized tests are timed, but the student with a vision problem often takes longer to read and to fill in the answers. The longer the test goes on, the more fatigued the student will become, causing her to slow down even further. This often leads to an inability to finish on time. This inability to finish standardized tests on time is common among patients with various visual deficiencies.
- Mis-reading questions. Students suffering from visual focusing issues may not read questions correctly. For example, if a test taking student has read the word “car” as “cap” then the answer can be dramatically affected by the mistake. This happens more often than you’d think and often with children suffering from vision disorders.
- Failing to see decimal points or line up columns correctly. Lining up columns for mathematical equations involves adequate visual tracking and teaming skills. Additionally, if a student fails to see a decimal point or a positive or negative sign, the equation will be incorrect.
- Writing the answer in the wrong bubble. This is probably the most common symptom in children with poor vision skills after slow test taking. Whether the test is paper Scantron or computerized, it requires the test taker to place the correct answer in the appropriate bubble. For children who have tracking problems, making sure the answer is filled within the correct bubble can be a challenge.
- Anxiety. Oftentimes, when a child sees double on occasion or sees words moving around on the page, he doesn’t realize this isn’t normal. He thinks this happens to everyone. He doesn’t know he has a vision problem. This results in increased anxiety whenever a standardized test rolls around, which, in turn, only aggravates the vision problem.
The beauty is that diagnosed vision problems can be treated with vision therapy. If you think your child has a vision problem that is affecting his or her ability to learn or take tests, CLICK HERE for my FULL LIST OF SYMPTOMS.
I hope you found this information helpful. Feel free to email me if you would like me to cover other topics on vision and learning.
Dennis Cantwell, Cantwell Vision Therapy Centers