How to Prepare Students for Standardized Tests

Classrooms Team

Dec 15, 2020

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Standardized testing’s place in public education has become a controversial topic. In some instances, teachers’ jobs depend on students’ test scores — even though results may not accurately reflect their teaching abilities. Moreover, not every student benefits from the Common Core curriculum and subsequent exams. 

Still, every state has some form of standardized testing, so you must do your best to prepare students. Here’s how to equip them with the tools and information they need to succeed on test day. 

Build Vocabulary

Often, students struggle to interpret exam questions because they don’t understand the vocabulary. If they know what the question is, they can answer it correctly. To combat misinterpretations and help kids succeed, many teachers are putting more emphasis on academic vocabulary. 

There are several ways to reiterate the importance of words and their meanings to your students. One method of expanding their vocabulary is to read higher-level books and excerpts from challenging literature. Choose stories or poems that will engage students and read for meaning. Spend some time deciphering difficult words and phrases. You might also weave more vocab quizzes into the curriculum. 

Incorporate Daily Reviews

Standardized tests are similar to a cumulative review of the entire school year. However, remembering words and mathematical formulas from several months ago can be challenging for even the most attentive students. 

Boost retention and refresh their knowledge by incorporating daily reviews into your lesson plans. These quizzes don’t have to take up much time or affect students’ grades. In fact, it’s best to keep them short and sweet and use a rewards system to motivate learning. Start each subject or class with three questions. Students write their answers on scratch paper and put them in a hat. Then, select three correct answers and award the winning students with a small treat. 

Reduce Student Stress

Stressing out over testing won’t improve scores. Therefore, it’s crucial to stay calm, especially as a teacher. Remember that poor test results aren’t always a reflection of your teaching abilities. Rather, they’re a cumulation of students’ learning levels, home life, and test-taking skills. Plus, your students will likely pick up on your stress and become anxious about the exam, too — which is the last thing you want. 

You can also ease general unrest about exams by clearing up any misconceptions students may have about them. For instance, younger children might believe they won’t advance to the next grade level if they receive a poor test score. Obviously, this can cause an enormous amount of unnecessary stress for students. Have a 10-minute conversation with both students and parents to address these and other similar misconceptions. 

Share Test-Taking Strategies 

You can also help students stay calm in the moment and do their best by sharing test-taking strategies. Teach the kids a few different breathing techniques to slow their heart rate if they start to panic. You might even let them suck on peppermints or chew gum to improve concentration and focus while taking the test. 

Since most of the exam will be multiple-choice, it may help to explain strategies like the process of elimination, too. If students can narrow down options by crossing off answers they know aren’t correct, they may perform better on the test. Remind them that they can always come back to difficult questions later, and encourage them to move on and avoid wasting time on things they don’t know or understand. This way, they can dedicate more time to questions they have a better chance of answering correctly. 

Simulate Real Exams 

The mere mention of test prep elicits groans and complaints from most students. Therefore, to engage them and boost enthusiasm, it’s best to merge teaching test-taking skills into everyday lessons. This way, kids can prepare for standardized tests without even knowing it. 

Still, it is essential to simulate real exams at least once as the day grows closer. Organize seating arrangements and place students exactly where they’ll be during the test. Clean off desks to discourage cheating and provide pencils so your kids can take a short practice exam. Make modifications for those with handicaps or disabilities so they know they’ll have extra time or be in a different room. 

Keeping It Simple 

When test day finally arrives, remember to keep preparation simple and straightforward. Avoid special surprises or treats before students take the exam. Instead, keep the day as close to normal as possile. Likewise, don’t plan something exciting directly after tests or, if you do, don’t tell your students. Otherwise, they may rush through the test or be unable to focus on the task ahead of them. 

With proper planning, preparation, and high hopes, your students will perform well on their standardized tests.

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