How can we support our students with helpful strategies for taking a test? Without stressing them out even more? I have five strategies for taking a test that will help your students feel more confident for any test! These strategies won’t add to your student’s stress because they are practical tools that will help them feel assured as they go into testing.
What are test-taking strategies?
Strategies for taking a test are plans of action to help your students be successful on a standardized test. Test taking strategies help your students realize that the reading and questions they encounter on a standardized test are not necessarily like they do in real life. Although the strategies in this blog post can be applied to other areas of learning, they are meant to help your students feel more prepared for a standardized test.
It is also important for us to know the why and how behind teaching strategies for taking a test! You may want to check out my blog post, 7 Test Taking Strategies That Will Help Your Upper Elementary Students ROCK Standardized Testing, to learn more about the background + seven additional strategies you can teach your students!
Here are 5 strategies for taking a test that will help students feel more prepared for standardized testing:
Strategy #1: Carefully Read the Directions
Directions tell students how to do something or in which order something should be done. Sometimes our students don’t understand the importance of directions – so it is our job to emphasize it!
Directions on any assignment are important. Something I realized when I was in the classroom is that even if my students could read the directions, that only sometimes meant they understood what the directions were saying. Big difference between the two!
Intentionally practicing reading directions and expressing understanding of those directions will help your students be prepared for various questions on a standardized test.
I used practice tests from our state’s testing website when I taught this strategy. Instead of having students answer the questions, I had them:
- Read the directions
- Circle directional words like first, second, next, then
- Write a sentence or two explaining in their own words what the directions said to do
At first, my students felt baffled at why we were only reading directions and not answering questions! But this gave me the opportunity to explain why reading and understanding directions is so important. We talked about how to identify two-part or multistep directions and then how we would apply the strategies we learned to choosing the best answer.
Strategy #2: Eliminating Incorrect Answers
I like to use the acronym R.E.A.D. to teach students how to eliminate incorrect answer choices when working with multiple-choice questions. I think it’s important to walk students through the steps of considering which answers are the least correct before choosing the best option. This acronym can help!
- Read each question and all answer options carefully.
- Eliminate any incorrect answer choices.
- Ask yourself! Is this answer connected to the question?
- Determine your final choice.
Using this acronym will help you teach your students a step-by-step process for working through multiple-choice questions. When students read the question, they should be looking for keywords and ideas they remember from the text before they even look at the answer choices! Encourage your students to read all the answer choices.
Eliminating answer choices can be such a confidence builder for students! If students need help choosing the correct answer, it can sometimes be easier to eliminate the answer they know doesn’t make sense. Encourage students always to ask themselves: Is this answer connected to the question?
The final step is determining which answer your students feel most confident choosing. I think it can be super beneficial to have a conversation with your students about how sometimes, on a test with multiple choice, it is more about choosing the best answer choice. This is a hard concept to grasp! So the more you talk about it and practice the R.E.A.D. method, the more confident your students will feel about choosing the best answer.
Strategy #3: Answer Before You Read the Choices
Another strategy on the other side of the spectrum from the above strategy is having your students practice answering a question before they read the multiple-choice answer options!
I know, I know – this is the opposite of the R.E.A.D. strategy, but I think it can be really beneficial. If a student reads a question and attempts to answer it first with the knowledge they have or even going back to the text. . . it can help them find the multiple-choice answer.
For example, if the passage is about how dinosaurs became extinct, and the question is, What is the main idea of the text? Students may instantly think dinosaurs! That can be a bit of a confidence booster as they look at the multiple-choice options and realize dinosaurs is a part of the answer choices. If the answer they come up with doesn’t match any of the multiple-choice options, they can rely on other testing strategies (like R.E.A.D.) to help them go back and choose the best answer.
Strategy #4: The 4 C’s of Test Review
I know that by the time many students reach a test’s end, they are tapped out, exhausted, and ready to turn it in. But it is important to teach our students the benefits of reviewing all the hard work they’ve put into a test! And to help them remember the steps for reviewing you can use the 4 C’s:
When talking about reviewing a test with your students, try putting a positive spin on it. Talk about what a great accomplishment it is to complete a test! And that reviewing all that hard work is just the icing on the cake.
When students review their test, they should:
- Make sure the test is COMPLETE. Encourage students to go back and look through the questions to make sure they are finished. Sometimes we skip a question intentionally and forget to go back or skip over a question on accident. Either way, double-checking for completion is essential.
- During the review, students should return to flagged questions and CHOOSE their final response. Especially with multiple choice questions, students may feel two answers fit the question and skip it to give themselves time to clear their head and return to it later.
- Don’t forget to double CHECK. So we have completed the test and chosen our final answers, now it is time to go back again and double check everything has been answered. Encourage students to fill in those bubbles completely, dot those i’s, and cross those t’s!
- And last but not least: CELEBRATE! It took a lot of hard work and dedication to finish the test and all the review steps. I always loved having this conversation with my students. We talked about how awesome it can feel to take a moment to reflect and celebrate the victory of finishing a test. Although they can’t jump for joy while others are still testing, students can take a few deep breaths and mentally celebrate their hard work.
Strategy #5: Getting Ready At Home
This last strategy is all about making a plan for how to prepare at home for a test. Because we spend so much time preparing for standardized testing at school, it is important to keep students’ families in the loop too! But that responsibility shouldn’t be only on you!
I think it is important that students be involved in creating an at-home plan to share with their families. Here are a few questions you can use to guide your discussion with students:
- What would happen if your parents didn’t know about your state test and you were late to school on test day?
- What if your family didn’t know about your state test and you had a late night family movie night the night before?
- What if your family didn’t know about the state test, and you woke up late and didn’t have time to eat breakfast the morning of the test?
After discussing these questions, I suggest having a brainstorming session. This could be done as a whole class or in small groups! Have students brainstorm ways they can prepare at home for test day – here are a few ideas:
- Get a good night’s sleep the night before the test.
- Avoid eating sugary foods the night before.
- Eat a healthy breakfast.
- Lay out your clothes and school supplies the night before, so you aren’t rushed in the morning.
- Make sure the rest of your family knows when you must be at school on test day.
You could even take this a step further and have students choose one at-home strategy and create a poster to hang in the classroom leading up to test day.
I hope these additional test strategies for test taking are helpful and make you feel a little more excited about preparing for test day in your classroom. If you’d like even more strategies for taking a test and activities to teach them to your students, check out my resource 15 Test Taking Strategies.
Put it into practice…
If you are ready to take action and teach testing strategies with little – to no prep, here are three things you can do.
- Head over to Teachers Pay Teachers to grab my FREEBIE: Test Taking Strategy for ELA Test Prep. In this free resource, you’ll get everything you need to teach your students one of my favorite test taking strategies – how to answer a multiple-choice question without getting distracted by the answer choices.
- Listen to Episode #75 of the podcast to hear me chat about tips on test prep strategies for student success.
- Join us inside The Stellar Teacher Reading Membership to get access to a library of ELA resources that will support your students reading and writing skills all year long!
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