Your Students for a Standardized Test
Learning About the Test
Standardized tests differ
from one another. Students need to familiarize themselves with the specific
test they must take. How can they best do this? There are three steps
to preparing for any test.
- Read about the test.
- Review the content covered by the test.
- Practice on questions like those on the
Reading About the Test
Inform students of the sources that they can
consult to learn about the test. Students should:
- know that they can always prepare for a
test. At the very least, students can familiarize themselves with the
format of the test, the types of questions that will be asked, and the
amount of time they will have to complete the test.
- use available materials to learn about a
- read any information the state or testing
company releases. Sometimes the test-writers will release information
through the school. If they do not, students can look for information
on the testing company's state board or education's Web site.
Reviewing the Content Covered by the Test
In addition to learning
about the format of the test, students will benefit from reviewing the
subject matter covered on the test. This will ensure that they are ready
for both what the test asks and how it does so.
If there are specific objectives or standards
that are tested on the exam your students must take, help them review
the facts or skills specified by each standard in advance to be sure they
are proficient in them.
The most important
part of a student's preparation for any standardized test is extensive
practice. Practice tests allow students to become familiar with the content,
format, and timing of the real exam. Reviewing practice tests also allows
students to review specific areas covered by the exam, to understand why
they chose wrong answers, and to learn to avoid choosing wrong answers
in the future. Students should:
- practice all the types of questions they
will encounter on their test-multiple choice, short response, and extended
response. Students should practice on real released tests whenever possible.
- understand the guidelines
that will be used to evaluate their constructed responses. Students
cannot give the test scorers what they want if they don't know what
the test scorers want.
Helping Students Apply What They Know About the Test
Make sure students
know that they should pace themselves, use the order of difficulty when
it is applicable, guess when it is beneficial, and use the process of
elimination to score their highest.
Students should pace themselves differently depending on how the test
- If the test is
timed, students should work carefully but not allow themselves to become
stuck on any one question. As they practice, they should try to increase
the number of questions they can complete correctly within the time
- If the test is
untimed, students should work slowly and carefully. If they have trouble
with an item, they should mark it and come back to it later. Students
should keep in mind that they have no time limit, so they should not
let themselves speed up unnecessarily.
Using the Order of Difficulty
Not all standardized test are arranged in order of question difficulty,
but some are.
- If the test questions are arranged in order
of difficulty, then the questions run from easy to medium to difficult,
in that order. Students should be extra certain that they get the easy
and medium ones correct before moving on to the most difficult questions.
- As they enter the difficult sections of
a test that progresses from easy to medium to difficult, students should
be aware that answer choices will also become trickier. The obvious
answer is probably not the correct answer to a difficult question.
- If the questions are not arranged in order
of difficulty (that is, any question at any point could be easy, medium,
or difficult), students should skip through the test, answering all
the easier questions (and marking the questions they leave for later).
They then can go back and answer the more difficult items.
Some tests impose a penalty for incorrect answers, usually a fraction
of a point. Others do not. Find out if the test your students must take
imposes a guessing penalty.
- If there is no penalty for incorrect answers,
then students should answer every single question, even if they don't
have time to read it.
- If there is a penalty for incorrect answers,
then students should only answer a question if they've read it, understood
it, and are able to eliminate at least one answer choice.
Using the Process of Elimination
For any multiple choice question,
students should know how to quickly and effectively use the process of
elimination to narrow down the possible answer choices. Even when they
are certain they know which answer is best, students should always confirm
their knowledge by reading the other choices and eliminating them.
What is the capital of Western Samoa?
The question above might be difficult for many
students to answer. However, most students will easily be able to eliminate
choices A, B, and D, leaving them with a 50 percent chance of guessing
correctly. If students do not eliminate any answer choices, they only
have a 20 percent chance of guessing correctly.
Students should physically cross out answer
choices they have eliminated in the answer book (whenever the testing
situation allows) so that they do not mistakenly answer a choice they
have mentally eliminated. Crossing out eliminated choices also ensures
that students do not waste time rereading an answer that they know is
If a test has a definite order of difficulty,
students should be aware that toward the end of the test it will be harder
to eliminate choices, since questions will be trickier and may involve
vocabulary and/or concepts with which students are unfamiliar. Students
should be sure to eliminate only those choices they understand completely
and are certain are incorrect.
Right Before the Test
Students should try to do the following:
- Get at least eight hours sleep each night
for the week leading up to the test.
- Eas a nutritious breakfast.
- Bring any necessary paperwork with them
to the test, such as identification and registration forms.
- Have plenty of sharpened pencils and erasers
- Complete a few warm-up questions the morning
of the test, allowing themselves to get into test-taking gear.