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Strategies for Effective Test Prep in the Classroom

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You want to prepare your students for a test, but how do you make the most of your time?

These test prep strategies will help your students be ready for test day.

Strategies for Effective Test Prep in the Classroom

How to Teach Test Skills

A test is designed to reveal what the student has learned. But there is a barrier: the test itself.

Test taking is its own skill. Teach your students to master the skill by showing them valuable test taking strategies.

1. Read the Question Twice

Many times a student gives the wrong answer because he skips or misreads the question. You must train students to slow down and read the question–twice!

If you are completing a reading comprehension test, it is helpful to read the questions before you read the passage. Then you know what to look for in the text.

Strategies for Effective Test Prep in the Classroom

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2. Underline Key Words

Some test questions are wordy. You can cut through the noise by underlining key words in the question.

In a math word problem, this would be numbers and arithmetic words like: sum, different, average, area, etc.

In a reading comprehension or content-based question, key words include the subject and the predicate.

You also want to pay attention to words like except, not, always, and all.

Strategies for Effective Test Prep in the Classroom

3. Eliminate Obvious Incorrect Answers

In a multiple-choice test, don’t select the first right answer you see.

Read through all the answers to check if one is “all of the above” or “none of the above.”

If you are having trouble selecting the right answer, cross out the answers you know are wrong.

Then focus your mental energy on deciding between the remaining options.

4. Show What You Know in Short Answer

Too often, students lose points on short answer questions because they include too little information.

Tell students to “show what they know.” You never lose points for including too much information!

Just be careful that you don’t spend too much time on the short answer section that you are unable to finish the test.

Strategies for Effective Test Prep in the Classroom

5. Teach Testing Vocab

Test questions have their own vocabulary that rarely comes up in regular life.

Teach the meanings of words frequently used in test questions.

Here are some common testing words you should teach your students:

  • Analyze
  • Compare
  • Contrast
  • Define
  • Identify
  • Illustrate
  • Summarize

6. Break Up the Test

Tests are typically timed. You don’t want to run out of time and leave any part of the test unfinished.

Teach your students to divvy up the test into chunks.

How many sections are there?

How long should they spend on each section or each question in a section?

Strategies for Effective Test Prep in the Classroom

7. Teach Stretching and Breathing Techniques

Standardized tests are often quite long. Teach students the skills to give themselves a quick brain break.

You can teach some stretches that can be done sitting in a chair.

You can also teach deep breathing exercises like Square Breathing:

  1. With your finger, slowly trace one side of a square along your desk (this should take about 3 seconds).
  2. Hold your breath as you trace the top of the square.
  3. Exhale as you trace down the other side of the square.
  4. Hold your breath as you trace the bottom of the square.

8. Practice Questions “I Do, We Do, You Do”

As you teach these test-taking strategies, put them into practice with sample questions.

Take an “I Do, We Do, You Do” approach.

Put two similar questions on the board.

Do the first question for the students, talking out loud as you implement the targeted test-taking strategies (like reading directions twice and underlining key words). This is “I Do.”

Do the second problem together, asking students to chime in. This is “We Do.”

Distribute a third problem for the students to do on their own. Encourage them to take what they know and put it into practice. This is “You Do.”

Strategies for Effective Test Prep in the Classroom

Simple and Effective Test Prep Strategies

How do you prep your students on the content and skills needed for the test?

Read on for the most effective test prep strategies for the classroom.

Incentivize Improvement

You want to motivate students to improve in their testing. To do that, you need to track their progress.

Help students develop individualized goals to improve. You can offer small incentives to hit new levels of achievement

Don’t Just Practice…Distribute the Practice

Students need to review and practice to do well on a test, but cramming is not the best way to prepare.

Distribute practice across many days.

For example, if you have a subject test on Friday, break down how to prepare in stages on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Strategies for Effective Test Prep in the Classroom

Help All Students Succeed with Differentiated Practice

Test prep is not one-size fits all. To meet the needs of every learner, differentiate your test prep.

Find Time Pockets

You don’t want test prep to hijack your whole day. Find small pockets of time in your day to work on test-taking skills.

One excellent time is the morning routine or as a warm-up to the lesson.

Build Test Taking Stamina

In-class tests are typically short (20 minutes on average). Standardized tests required that students sit for hours. This requires stamina!

While mini-practice sessions are wonderful, throw in a few longer practice tests so kids can build stamina.

Strategies for Effective Test Prep in the Classroom

Spiral Homework for Constant Review

If you have a cumulative test approaching, you can help students prepare by assigning spiralized homework.

This means that homework includes review questions from previous lessons.

Use Centers for Review

If you have centers for your classroom, you can devote some of them to test prep. Stock your reading center with some activities that teach inferencing.

Use math games that keep the math facts fresh. These can include file folder games.

Use Games to Review

Test prep doesn’t have to be drudgery. Keep things fresh by incorporating games into a review.

With Kahoot, you can generate game-based reviews for your class.

You can also turn most games into a review by asking a question (or answering a task card) before each turn.

Classic games like Jenga, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, and Connect Four work particularly well.

Digital escape rooms are another huge hit that make review fun.

Strategies for Effective Test Prep in the Classroom

Use Technology to Make Review Faster

For students with difficulty reading, test practice can take a very long time.

You can speed things along by using virtual test prep (like apps and websites) and using a device with text-to-speech technology.

Review in Groups

One of the simplest prep strategies is to review in groups. Yes, individual review is important, but so are large group review and small group review.

Break students into groups of 3 or 4 and have them work as teams to answer review questions.

Loop In Parents

This may go without saying, but the student’s parents are part of your team.

If you communicate with parents about testing dates and individualized targets for their students, they can help shoulder some of the test prep at home.

Strategies for Effective Test Prep in the Classroom

Test Prep Strategies That Work

Test prep doesn’t have to be complicated. You have two main goals: teach the students how to take a test, and then review the content in a fun and effective way.

By using some of these test prep strategies, your students will be ready to conquer any test!

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