Like peanut butter and jelly, tests and stress seem to go together, though not so delightfully. With the school year in swing and teachers now – or soon to be – administering tests, students can approach them with a game plan and fresh mindset. Instructional coaches for Summit Academy Schools offer their strategies for test-taking success.
- Don’t think of it as a test.
Kirstie Ernst, an elementary data coach for Summit Academy Community School – Columbus, offers a tip she learned years ago from her then middle school guidance counselor: Dismiss the concept of test-taking, she suggests. Ernst says as a student she would cross out words like “test,” “exam” and “quiz,” if they were on the paper in front of her. This strategy helped reduce the test-taking fear factor.
“Think of it as just another assignment,” Ernst advises. “I’m not afraid to admit that I am not a great test taker, but when I tell myself that it is not a test I usually do better. Don’t psych yourself out. A test does not define you. Just try your best.”
- Read the Q&As first and underline key points.
“My tip for testing is to read the questions and answers before the passage,” says Summit Academy – Toledo Instructional Coach Brittany Beck. This can help students understand what they are looking for, help them focus in on key phrases and underline points that may help them answer the questions, Beck explains. She also advises students to have confidence in themselves and try their best.
- Cross out answers that make no sense.
“Always cross out answers that don’t make sense so you can narrow the answer selections down,” says Math Coach Cari Ruminski. Students who use this strategy will have higher odds of choosing the correct answer, emphasizes Ruminski, who teaches at Summit Academy Community School for Alternative Learners – Middleton.
- Adults, talk with your children about test taking.
“Have open, ongoing conversations with your child to explain the benefits of tests,” says Alyssa Nixon, an instructional coach at Summit Academy Community School for Alternative Learners – Lorain. Nixon stresses that parents, grandparents and other caregivers should focus on explaining how exams can help students and teachers understand a child’s strengths and weaknesses. Educators can then figure out the most effective way to teach, she says.
“Ask your child how they feel about testing and offer reassurance or perspective if they have any anxiety around exams,” Nixon adds.
- When reading passages, jump to the questions that match the word/phrases in the passage.
Amy Smialek, interim director for Summit Academy School – Lorain, passes on her advice to zero in on key points when reading passages with comprehension questions, such as those in college entrance exams. “Don’t lose your place in the passage while you jump back and forth to the questions,” adds Smialek, who also teaches classes and tutors for standardized test preparation through Seeley Test Pros (ACT, SAT, HSPT).
- Beat the clock.
Students worried about finishing a test on time should still try to answer all the questions, especially if the exam is multiple-choice in format.
“For questions that are too hard, you’re unsure of or just take too long to do, be sure to still fill in a bubble and circle the number on your answer sheet,” urges Smialek, who has extensive experience as a teacher and instructional and literacy coach. If students have any time left over, they can always return to those questions, she points out.
Smialek offers one more helpful tip to students when they are up against a test clock that is ticking too fast.
“If you have a bunch of questions you haven’t read yet and time is almost out, just go down the line and fill in the same letter bubble for all of them,” she says. “This way, you’re bound to get some of them correct, rather than guessing and possibly missing them all.”