Five Strategies for Surviving End-of-the-Year Testing

Good Morning. Testing will begin shortly after you complete the identification information on your answer sheet. Please listen carefully to the following instructions. You may not eat or drink in this room. You may not leave the room until you have been dismissed. You will have one hour to complete this section. Work as rapidly as you can without losing accuracy. No credit will be given for anything written in the test booklet. Be sure to mark your answer sheet properly. You must use a No. 2 pencil…..Open your test booklets. You may begin.

studying, test, study, girl studyingStudents take an average of 112 required standardized tests between Kindergarten and 12th grade, according to the Council of Great City Schools. That’s right; the average student will take about 8 standardized tests per year! This number tends to be lower in K-2 and to peak around 8th grade. If you are a parent of a student who attends public school, this probably does not surprise you. For most, May is the start of testing season — a time when, as a teacher and the owner of a tutoring service, I see parents and students begin to panic about how to prepare for final exams, AP tests, and end of the year standardized tests. All of this testing, and for many just hearing the instructions above, can be enough to cause some major anxiety! Here are five simple steps that can be used to help prepare for any test with minimal stress and less panic:

  1. Take a Practice Test

With AP tests, the SAT, ACT, and the end of grade standardized tests, there are usually practice or released tests available to students. Taking a practice test allows students to experience what the test will be like, familiarize themselves with the types of questions on the test, and see what content will be tested. When preparing for timed tests, taking practice tests is also essential to getting the timing down. In general, practice tests are a fundamental part of studying and preparing because students can review their answers, learn from their mistakes, and determine what content they need to study. Studying to understand the content is a far more effective way to prepare than just trying to complete practice items or exclusively “teach to the test.” If a practice test is not available, making a practice test by turning notes into questions and answers is a great study exercise.

  1. Develop a Growth Mindset

After taking a practice test, your student should know where they stand and have a score that they are starting with. Most of the time this score does not match up with what they would like to receive on the real test day. This is why they are studying! It is important for students to understand that their knowledge can grow based on the effort that they put into learning the material. This idea was promulgated by Carol Dweck and is called a growth mindset. She found that how students perceive their abilities has a large impact on their achievement. When students believe that their intelligence is fixed (I did poorly on this test because I am stupid!) they do not perform as well academically as those students who believe that their academic abilities can be developed (If I work on this, I can improve!).

  1. Evaluate Work, Learn from Mistakes, and Set Goals

Students should look over practice tests as well as tests and quizzes they have taken throughout the year to set some goals for improvement. They should consider: a. Where am I now?; b. Where do I want to be when I take the real test?; c. What steps do I need to take or what do I need to learn or do differently to get from where I am to where I want to be? Students should write down their goals and the steps to achieve them and post this list somewhere visible.

  1. Ask Questions

Students should take the items they missed on the practice test, as well as notes from class, and record those as questions and answers. They can write the question on one side of a flashcard and the answer on the other. Using a program like Quizlet for this is helpful because it allows them to study these questions and answers with flashcards, customized practice tests, and games.

  1. Study for a Short Period Each Day

When studying for a test it is more helpful to study for 20- 30 minutes a day for several weeks or months (if we are talking about a big test like the SAT) than to stay up all night before the test cramming. Putting in a small consistent effort each day will have the biggest payoff.

As you may have noticed, it is more effective when students build their understanding over time, if they want to remember content for a test. Thus, the best way to really be prepared is to keep up in class all along by doing the reading, taking notes, and reviewing daily. Practicing this form of daily studying in conjunction with applying the strategies above can help students retain more information and feel more prepared on test day.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Owner | Parrish Learning Zone, LLC

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