Feb 18, 2016

Test Taking Tips and Tricks

Since beginning my test taking lessons in grades 3-5 at Mohawk Trails, I have had several parents and students ask me if they could have a hand-out or something similar that they could use at home with the tips and tricks on them.  Ask and you shall receive!  Here are some of the tips and tricks that I use with our students in my lessons.  While I talk about these before ISTEP begins, they truly are beneficial to use on any test or assessment that students might be taking throughout the year.

Tips for Students

The first tip that I typically give students involves the acronym of RELAX.  I’m all for acronyms – just ask anyone that went to grad school with me – so this trick is one of my favorites. 

RRead the questions carefully and re-read to find the answers.
E Examine every answer choice before you choose your answer.
LLook for evidence and label your answer in the passage when you find it!
AAlways check your answers by looking back.
XX-Out answer choices that cannot possibly be correct.

I think that the acronym really helps students remember short snips of the tips and tricks that I cover in their classes while they are taking the tests.  I also want to make sure that they have more detailed descriptions of a few of the tips, just so they have a better understanding of why some of these work and how they can use them.  Knowledge is power, right?  So I make sure to also give them 10 test taking tips with a bit more information provided too!

1.  Stay focused and relaxed.  Is this even possible?  You betcha!  Keep your mind on the test, but don’t tense up.  Stay looks and cool so you can move smoothly from one question to the next.  If you feel yourself getting tense, don’t worry!  Try some deep breathing to calm your nerves.

2.  Sit in a comfortable position. Again, don’t stiffen your body.  Also, don’t sit hunched over your papers.  Sit in a relaxed way, and make sure to keep your body loose!  Your body being loos tells your mind that everything is going great and gives it the freedom to focus on the test rather than your aching muscles.

3. A little bit of stress is okay – don’t worry! A little bit of stress is okay – it means that you care about how well you’re going to do.  The key is to accept this stress and don’t let worrying about the stress make you even more stressed.  Instead, tell yourself, “I’m a little worried, but that’s okay.  I’m going to do well on this test!”

4.  Read/listen to the directions! Be sure to pay careful attention to the directions you are given.  This will keep you from making simple mistakes and guarantees that you won’t have to go back and re-do any work because you didn't understand the directions.

5.  Pace yourself.  Tests are often timed.  Pay attention to how much time  you have to complete your test, but don't focus on the clock.  Glance up every so often to be sure you're not falling behind, and make sure you're not looking at a single question for too long.

6.  Don't rush! Try and keep a good pace, but make sure you're not rushing through questions to keep you.  Make sure that you think clearly about your answer.  Read every choice before choosing an answer.

7.  Stay away from distractions.  Unless you are quickly glancing at the clock, keep your eyes on your own paper.  Don't worry about what others around you are doing.  Pay attention to what matters most when you're testing - YOU!  Also, testing is not a race, so don't worry if you're not the first one done.

8. Focus on what you know.  Stuck on a question that seems impossible?  Skip it and move on to the next one!  Don't spend too much time on questions that seem too difficult to answer.  If you get stuck, don't stay stuck.  Pass on the questions and come back to them if you have time.

9. Use up all of your time.  Again, tests are not a race!  If you happen to finish before time is up, don't just turn your test in and sit there.  Go back over the questions, especially the ones that were hard (and maybe you skipped) and check your work.

10. Stay positive!  The test might be tough, but you can do it!  Tell yourself that you have the skills and knowledge to be successful and you can be!  A positive attitude goes a long way toward success!

Feel free to use this nifty little handout that I put together with all of this information for students!


Tips for Parents

So, all of this information is great for kids to know about how to ace a test, but what can parents do?  Here are some helpful tips and tricks for parents for before, during, and after a test that you can use to help your student through the process!

1. Make attendance a priority.  This is especially important on days that you know standardized testing will be administered, or you know that a test is  happening in the classroom.  When your child misses a test due to an absence, they often lose valuable learning time in the classroom to make it up.  It's important for your child to be at school as much as possible, but having them attend on testing days ensures that they're not going to miss instructional time at other times.

2. Note testing days on a calendar.  Note testing days on a calendar that is easy for your child to see.  This includes high-stakes tests and smaller assessments like spelling quizzes.  This helps your child prepare and know what is coming next so they are not caught off guard.

3. Do homework checks every day.  Even if your child is very independent with their homework time, take a moment to check over their work after they are finished.  Check for understanding, and make sure that they do not have any questions about what they are working on.  If you notice that your child is struggling with a topic, your daily homework check ensures that you are able to touch base with their teacher before a test takes place!

4.  Don't pressure your child.  Instead, encourage them!  No child wants to fail, and most do as best as they can in the classroom and on assessments.  Being worried about the reaction that you might have due to a poor test grade may increase their anxiety and reduce their success on a test.  The higher the child's anxiety, the more likely they are to make careless mistakes.

5.  Set a reasonable bedtime.   Don't underestimate the power and importance of a good night's rest.  If your child is tired, it is more likely that they will have difficulty focusing, and will be easily frustrated by challenging questions.  On the flip side, make sure that your child also has enough time to wake up in the morning.  Feeling rushed is another sure-fire way to fluster and frustrated your kiddo.

6. Make a good breakfast.  Make sure to give your child a breakfast that is high in protein and low in sugar.  Kids learn better when their stomachs are full of healthy protein and fiber rich roods.  If their stomachs are full of sugary, heavy foods that might make them sleepy of queasy, it really isn't much better than sending them to school on an empty stomach.

7. Talk to your child.  Talk to your child about how the test went and go over any mistakes that were made.  Make sure to emphasize that it is okay to make mistakes, and that this is how we learn and grow.  Just because they did not know a concept during the test does not mean that they will never know it.  Help them understand that part of learning is about making mistakes and knowing how to fix them for the next time around.

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