Top Ten Test-Taking Strategies
Since I've been teaching for many moons and have experienced several different testing situations, I can tell you what has been the most effective way to prep students with strategies for a state test. Don't get me wrong, I've had my not-so-fun experiences along the way! Oh yeah. My very first experience was not a good one. I was teaching in North Carolina and giving the EOG to fifth graders. I had several students leave my room with accommodations. We all know that they can not be alone with THE ALMIGHTY TEST. The special area teacher came to get them and I handed her their tests. Then, they came back to my room after testing with their tests and no teacher in sight! I did the right thing and told them I couldn't take their tests and sent them to the office. The admin immediately thought it was my fault until I finally had my turn to explain. Being the newbie in this non nurturing environment, I had stand up for myself. Once it got straightened out, that crazy teacher came to my room and reamed me out in front of my class for throwing her under the bus! Did she want me to take the fall? I think not! This is my career lady! I had some rough kids and some kids bigger than me and one of them stood up and said, "I got your back Mrs. O!" Ha! I thought she was going to fight me too! Needless to say, I didn't last in that school very long. I switched to a non testing grade the following year (even thought I had the best EOG scores in my grade level) and then resigned without having a job. It was scary to be jobless, but I knew I didn't want to go back there.
With God on my side, he found me a school that I call home. It was right across the border in South Carolina. The very first time I gave the PASS test, I had another awful experience! Seriously? We did two writing tests that were in the same booklet. One was a written prompt and the other was grammar and mechanics multiple choice. The multiple choice was first. As many times and I told the students NOT to go beyond the word "STOP," I had that one precious cherub that went on and started writing about the prompt. When I got back around to her desk and saw that she had started on the prompt, I about had a heart attack! I took up her paper and quietly told her that she wasn't supposed to move on and I could hear my heart thumping so loud that I thought it would distract the other students! I knew I had to report this to the TESTING POLICE. Goodness! Can I not get this right? My principal was NOT happy even though both me and the other monitor in the room were walking around. We aren't supposed to look at the content, but we are supposed to catch something like this before it happens in a room packed with students. Can you say STRESS? You know what I'm talking about! She had to write me up and I had to sign an official document for the state. They acted like I committed a serious crime. Was I going to jail? Then my principal had to pull the student, call the parents, and pretty much QUARANTINE her until the next day. Thank goodness fourth graders didn't have cell phones and iPads back then! I am assuming I wasn't the only teacher this happened to because the ALMIGHTY PASS MASTERS decided to change it up and have the prompt the first day of writing. Genius right? After I got through several years of PASS testing, it started to become a joke on our hall and I could loosen up about it. Thank goodness I haven't had a problem since. I don't know if my heart could take it!
So, with that in mind, crazy things happen. Most you can't avoid. However, you can prepare your students so that their stress level is low and they are familiar with what they are doing the day of the test. Other than practicing the format of the test, reviewing content, and giving a practice test in the same format, these are the TOP TEN TEST-TAKING STRATEGIES that have been effective for my kiddos over the years. I hope you find something to work for your class!
1. SHOW A POWERPOINT WITH THE EXACT DIRECTIONS FROM THE TEST ALONG WITH IMPORTANT VOCABULARY
I take the actual test directions and show my students so they get familiar with it. Not only do I review important vocabulary for the subject area, but I also talk about words like STOP at the bottom of the page, the word EXCEPT, and also words like NEVER, NOT, ALL, and ALWAYS. Below is an example of Common Core Vocabulary words that I reviewed with my students. Thank you Bright Concepts 4 Teachers!
2. CIRCLE KEY WORDS IN THE QUESTION AND CITE EVIDENCE IN THE TEXT
I tell my students that it is ok to circle, underline, etc to help them find answers. When reading the question, they should circle any key words like the ones talked about in #1. This will help them understand exactly what they need to do. I also tell them that they need to practice the strategies from all those lessons on citing evidence by underlining important information for the question. This example was taken from my Text Evidence resource.
3. PREDICT THE ANSWER BEFORE LOOKING AT THE ANSWER CHOICES
Studies show that if you predict an answer before you look at the choices, there is a high chance it is a correct answer!
4. ELIMINATE ANSWERS YOU KNOW ARE INCORRECT
This is a no brainer. I tell my students that nothing makes me happier than when I am walking around during ANY test and I see someone crossing off answers that they know are incorrect! Throughout the year, I reward students for eliminating answers! They want to see me do the happy dance AND get a prize!
5. DON'T LEAVE A QUESTION BLANK- TAKE YOUR BEST GUESS
Students need to realize that on most state tests for upper elementary students, they need to answer all the questions. THE TESTING POLICE are looking for the most correct answers and their score isn't affected as much by incorrect ones.
6. DON'T CHANGE AN ANSWER UNLESS YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY SURE
Studies show that in most cases, your initial gut feeling of an answer is usually the right one!
7. BUBBLE IN CORRECTLY
When a machine checks the multiple choice tests, it will mark it wrong in a heartbeat if it can't determine which answer the test taker meant to bubble.
8. USE THE SCRATCH PAPER- DON'T DO THE WORK IN YOUR HEAD
This is the most difficult one for my students. I teach GT and they think they know it! Many times they probably do, but there are times especially in math when multi-step problems need to be written out to get the correct answer. The test may throw some close but no cigar answer choices in there! I tell them, "Don't let the test trick you!" Anything turned into a game seems to get their attention.
9. READ CHARTS AND MAPS WITH A DETECTIVE EYE
We practice this skill throughout the year especially in Social Studies. I explain that they are on the test for a reason so they need to look over it closely to see if there is any hidden meaning. Find that treasure!
10. COWS- CHECK OVER WORK SLOWLY
There is no rush. Why are students always rushing? Is that your biggest pet peeve? I tell them there is nowhere to go and nothing to do when you are finished. Make sure you answered every question. This test reflects your hard work throughout the year. Do your very best!
Click on the pic below for a freebie! I place these inside study folders (not for the BIG TEST but throughout the year.)
I hope you learned a new strategy or two to use with your class this year! CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTABLE VERSION WITHOUT GRAPHICS
Do you need to review reading skills set up as an interactive game? My kids love it so I put it on sale for you!
Come back and visit us for more amazing ideas and tips from teachers who are crazy talented in their field! I feel blessed to be a part of this wonderful group!