Test prep strategies help prepare students for standardized tests. There are several strategies you can use to help students perform their best.
Here are 5 effective test prep strategies for upper elementary and middle school classrooms,
1. Teach how to read and deconstruct directions.
One of the most effective test prep strategies is to practice how to read the directions. We know that some directions, especially on performance task test, have multiple steps for students to perform.
Show students how to identify the actions (identify the verbs) the prompt is asking. Encourage them to highlight or underline the key words and phrases. Numbering each step is another tip to help students identify all that is being asked.
It may be beneficial for students to write out the steps for longer questions and then check off each step as it’s completed.
Demonstrate how to read the directions multiple times, and think aloud with them as you read. Then, give students a different prompts than the one used for the lesson and ask students to work individually or with a partner to read and deconstruct the prompt.
This could become morning work or center work to do on a regular basis. The bottom line is the more familiar students are with deconstructing a prompt, the better able they’ll be able to do this on state testing.
2. Show students how to eliminate wrong answers.
This tried and true old school tactic still works. Depending on the question, it may be more involved, like reading a passage and identifying the answer or the main idea of the passage. After reading, students return to the answer choices and eliminate what’s wrong.
It’s important to show how to tackle 2 answer choices they are debating. Show how to go back to the text to see if you can get a clear answer. If they can’t, at least they’ve increased the probability of choosing the correct response.
Read this blog post on preparing for performance task-type tests for even more great tips.
3. Practicing with sample tests is one of the best test prep strategies.
Use sample tests from previous years or test preparation books to give students a sense of what to expect on the actual test. This can help students become more familiar with the format and types of questions they may encounter.
Some of the practice tests are boring and long. I try to avoid making test prep a chore. If you’re looking for engaging ELA test prep, check out this high-interest unit that reviews the most common ELA test prep vocabulary and reading and writing practice that will hold students’ attention. It even includes games!
4. Use test prep-like questions as a regular part of your classroom.
Spend time looking at the structure of the questions and what is being asked. You can use the same structure on your worksheets and quizzes. The more students are familiar with the wording and look of test questions, the less stressful it will be when they are in the midst of state testing.
You can use online resources if you have access. These are great for targeting in on skills. It does take time to pick the parts you want to emphasize. Avoid having no follow up on these practice sessions. Ask what students found difficult or look at their results to see what skill you could target the next week in class.
5. Building student confidence is one of the best test prep strategies.
Test anxiety can be a major obstacle for many students, so it’s important for teachers to help build their students’ confidence. Encouraging students to take practice tests and providing positive feedback can help boost their confidence and reduce their anxiety.
It’s also important to remind students of what they’ve learned this year and how they can use these skills on state tests. One particular tool I like to remind student of is the use of graphic organizers. Even though I can’t give them organizers during testing, students can draw them out on paper for use to organize their thoughts, especially with writing.
Remind student of the close reading strategies they’ve learned because they’ll be using these throughout state testing. Grab this free unit on teaching close reading you can start using today!
Overall, preparing students for standardized tests requires a combination of test-taking strategies, content review, and support to build student confidence. By using a variety of test prep strategies, you can help your students perform their best during state testing.