Effectively Yours

Sharing effective and unique strategies for non-academic skills needed for student success

It’s that time of year! Time for statewide assessments to be administered across the nation. April and May can be intense for both teachers and students. Teachers are anticipating how well their students will perform, and even though they diligently study, students are hoping that the assessment results won’t retain them. Yes, a stressful time of the year, indeed. So, it’s only fitting to discuss test-taking strategies.

As a teacher, I believe that certain concepts should be introduced to students at the beginning of the school year. Test-taking strategies should be one of them. Before the end of the first month of school, an observant teacher should be able to identify which students do and don’t do well while testing. For those students who struggle with testing, whether it is test anxiety or lack of understanding the test questions, whatever the reason, a prime opportunity to introduce test-taking strategies is evident.

I Struggled Too

As a child, I performed poorly on standardized tests. I often had to reread the questions multiple times just to get a basic understanding of what the question was asking. To add insult to injury, I was also cognizant of the clock I had to race against. The questions would confuse me. They just didn’t make sense. I thought I was stupid, and one of my high school teachers thought so too. During my senior year, she would find it cute to ridicule me for making a 970 on the SAT. I could have let those moments define the rest of my life, but I simply dismissed her behavior. She was petty. I knew then I was destined for greatness. I decided to make an attempt to fix this problem.

It Got Real…

The use of test-taking strategies became the norm for me as a student at The Albany State University (Yes, shameless plug for my university! GO RAMS!). Passing exams is vital in college. It was imperative that I devised a plan to give me an edge when testing. I am a believer in mnemonic devices. They are life savers! I still use them presently when needing to remember something. However, just imagine if a teacher introduced test-taking strategies to me while in middle school? My SAT score would have been “rock star status” in high school!

Get Ready for Testing!

I Love Flocabulary!

When teaching 5th grade, I relied heavily upon a website called Flocabulary. This company, who has now partnered with Nearpod, creates educational videos about various contents and situations. One of my favorites is on test-taking strategies.

Scene from Flocabuary.com video-Test Taking Strategies

To view a snippet of the video, click here. Please note, that the website will only allow you to see approximately 15 seconds of the video then prompt you to sign up for their free trial. I promise you, the trial and eventual purchase of this product is worth it! It is a great resource for those teachers who are looking for engaging activities to do with their students at the end of the year.

What Else Can I Do?

I’m glad you asked! There are so many test-taking strategies that teachers and parents can share with their students/children. As always, I choose ideas that are easy to implement and in some cases, unique and unheard of. Take a look at the list below:

  • Use technology to visualize test material-create study apps, use presentation software (Prezi, iMovie, etc.) or digital flashcards as study guides
  • Arrive early on test day and take a moment to relax or review
  • When the test begins, do a memory dump and write down everything you may need to use while testing (formulas, rules, dates, etc)
  • Answer questions in the order that they appeal to you the most, but remember to answer all questions
  • Learn definitions of high-frequency assessment terms (such as define, analyze, differentiate, interpret)
  • If permitted, consume a small snack while testing-something that won’t get the answer sheet dirty
  • Research says that eating an apple 30 minutes before an exam aids in improving test scores
  • While testing, occasionally put your pencil down and take several, deep breaths to clear your mind
  • Refrain from wearing restrictive clothing that will hinder breathing or promote tension
  • Put test questions in your own words or chunk them into comprehensible parts if the question is initially difficult to process
  • Use the test to take the test-often the answer to a question can be found in another test question

Source : wiu.edu, fastweb.com, educationcorner.com

The Power of Test-Taking Strategies

I honestly believe that if any one of my teachers from 5th through 12th had set aside a few minutes each week to review a non-academic skill such as this one, my approach to testing would have included less anxiety.

Assessing in education appears to be here to stay. As long as educational decision-makers believe standardized testing is the primary resource for collecting student content mastery data, then we as educators and parents must prepare our students/children.

The strategies above are basic strategies for test-taking; however, if you are interested in a more detailed post about test-taking strategies (signal words, cues, distractors, etc.) please leave me a comment. I welcome blog post suggestions from my Effectively Yours friends!

Exciting News!

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In case you forgot, here is my mission: To share effective and unique strategies for non-academic skills needed for student success. Friends, we have to prepare our students/children for college and career. They are our future.

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