Test-taking Tips and Tricks

Test. The word itself sends shivers down the spine of many students. In most schools, much of students’ grades depends heavily on their ability to master the teacher’s tests. Since the mid-1980s, there has been a steady increase in standardized testing. Their use skyrocketed after 2002’s “No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)” mandated annual testing in all states. However, students are not only required to take this annual test. Most schools conduct a variety of different “standardized tests” every quarter, to help gauge how students will perform on the end-of-grade assessment. The average 3rd-grader now has to take standardized assessments every few weeks. The topic itself is incredibly controversial and has led to a great divide among taxpayers.

Proponents say standardized tests are a fair and objective measure of student achievement. They also state that these tests ensure teachers and schools are being held accountable to taxpayers and, most relevant of all—parents and students—approve of testing.

Opponents say the tests are not fair. They believe their use promotes a narrow curriculum which requires teachers to “teach to the test.” Opponents also believe that excessive testing undermines our nation’s ability to produce innovators and critical thinkers.

However, regardless of which side one agrees with, today, students will have to take a variety of assessments, and ignoring this issue will not help them. It is vital to teach them to become better test-takers. Read on for several tips to help students think critically and tackle these assessments!

Test-taking Tip #1: Think Positive! Avoid using negative phrases about testing. Encourage students to view their assessments like a big jigsaw puzzle. Despite the fact that it may be incredibly tough, they should take their time at solving the mystery. When it comes to testing, a positive attitude can help breed success!

Test-taking Tip #2: Start Scholarly Habits Early. Encourage students by telling them that strong test-takers are already preparing by the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! These students begin to develop early scholarly habits: taking notes, asking relevant questions, completing homework assignments, reviewing/studying and finally, not being afraid to ask for help.

Test-taking Tip #3: The Night Before. While cramming is not encouraged, it is wise to review notes the night before. A light review, not a brutal “all-nighter,” is a great method to help students refresh their memory. Equally important—make sure students get a good night’s rest. Attempting to take a test with little to no sleep, is equal to a car trying to run with little to no gas. It doesn’t work.

Test-taking Tip #4: The Morning Of. Almost everyone knows that having a solid breakfast is crucial to test success. After breakfast, arrive at school early to do a quick 10-minute review before the test. This helps bring the facts back to the brain.

Test-taking Tip #5: Use scratch paper first! An excellent testing strategy is to use the scratch paper for notes before looking at the questions. On this paper, students write any formulas or facts they know. This way, as they begin diving into the test, they can refer back to these notes.

Test-taking Tip #6: Let’s get ready for Show Time! After arriving at school early, make sure all materials are nearby. Students will need to have scratch paper, extra pencils, and calculators (if they are allowed to use them). Also, make sure they know how the test is scored: Do they lose points for incorrect answers? Or is it better to make guesses if one is not sure of the answer?

Test-taking Tip #7: Time Management. Students need to know how to budget their time regarding tests. Encourage them first to know how long the test is, then begin to tackle all the questions that come easiest to them FIRST. Afterward, they can always go back to the more difficult ones.

Test-taking Tip #8: Covering up Answers. When taking multiple-choice questions, it is often a great idea to encourage students to cover up the answers, then have them write out their own answer to the side of the question. This way, they cannot let the answer choices confuse them.

Test-taking Tip #9: Process of Elimination. Another great test strategy for MC questions is to start by crossing off the answers that couldn’t be right. Then spend more time focusing on the possible correct choices before selecting the correct answer.

Test-taking Tip #10: I’m done, now what? The best test takers take their time! Students should NOT rush through a test, even if they feel like they aced it. It is crucial for students to review all answers, making sure that they didn’t make any careless mistakes. The last remaining minutes can be used for going over the hardest problems before finally turning in the test.