We’ve all been there. You know you taught the standard. The student showed mastery of the standard. But when the state test rolls around, the student doesn’t answer the question correctly. What gives?!
Whether you work your butt off to get your students ready for state tests or take the “I don’t teach to the test approach”, one thing is for certain; the test isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Considering most professions and colleges require the passage of some type of test, it isn’t a bad idea to teach your students how to come out on top, no matter where you stand on the matter.
Perfect Practice Makes Perfect:
- Practice the CORRECT types of questions: This one seems obvious, and for that reason can be overlooked. REALLY look at the types of questions on your state’s test. Some states even have a list of rules they give the test makers. For instance, each distractor needs to be similar in length, or no questions can end with a semicolon. Make sure your practice questions echo the questions on the state test.
- Don’t just practice the right type of questions, teach (and practice) test-taking skills. For example, there are certain answer choices that are common: all of the above or none of the above. Teaching students how to make the best decision when these answer choices appear is a ust. Another great example called Zapping is pictured. The question and answer choices are nonsense, but you can immediately see that A is the correct answer. Check out our Test-Taking Skills PowerPoint for more strategies to share with your students.
- Power Verb Practice: Most tests have some type of essay, extended/open response or short answer portion. Make sure your students know what is expected when they see the verbs in these types of questions. This may sound simple, but it is often where students miss the boat. Teach students what each power verb is asking them to do. For instance if the question uses the word compare, what should student do, if it says contrast, what does that entail, etc…
- Make sure your students have practice with the format of the test as well. Many tests are moving from paper and pencil to the computer. Students are missing questions due to not clicking a tab they didn’t know was there. If your students will be taking a test on a computer, make sure you have given them practice on the computer. Most likely your state will have a practice test on the state website, so use that resource!
Do the Math:
Students should know the point values for each type of question. This ensures that they can double check that they answered ALL parts of the question for the total number of points before moving on. How many points is an essay worth, a short answer?
- Students should also know how many questions they need to get correct in each category of question to pass the test. They should be able to count this up as they take the test. Many students have no idea what they scored on the previous years test, much less this information. How can they do well if they don’t even have a goal? Ownership needs to be taken. Check out Data Driven Instruction: Wrong Turn Ahead for more on how to help students take ownership of their scores.
Give your students a “Toolbox”:
- Give your students strategies and items they can use to fall back on when they are unsure. This will help them to be less anxious and more confident when they aren’t sure of the answer. One thing I love to do is teach them 1-2 graphic organizers they can use to help them complete the essay and open response questions. I often try to tie the graphic organizer to the point value of the questions. One I like to use is the “Super Square” because it is so simple.
- Make sure to instill fluid thinking in your students. If there is more than one name for a concept, interchange the names during class and make sure they understand the two names are referring to the same idea. So many students second guess themselves or miss a question simply because they are unaware of what the question is referring to.
As you push to get your content covered these next few months it can be overwhelming to think of trying to add in the above items on top of everything else you have to accomplish. Build in weekly practice questions as the bonus question at the end of an assignment or as your opening Bellringer.
You can definitely build test practice into what you already do without having to add more work to your already full plate. Be sure to read our upcoming Monday 2/5 post for test-taking websites and resources to help you come up with the best practice questions for your students!