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Help Students with Special Needs Perform Well on Tests

written by: Barbara • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 7/12/2012

Many students with special needs struggle with taking tests. There is now way we can do away with tests altogether, but there are plenty of ways you can help struggling students perform their best on tests.

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    Strategies in Test-Taking: Creating a Study Guide

    Even with modifications in lesson design and expected academic outcome, students have to take tests and show what they know and have retained in the learning process. Teachers can help students build up their confidence and learning capacity in transferring lesson knowledge to positive assessment outcome.

    Study Guide for Tests

    • Create a proactive test-taking environment for students in the classroom by including sample test-taking in the lesson outcome before the test that counts for credit in the gradebook. If students are allowed to practice taking tests, they can become familiar with the differentiation in testing formats and gain confidence in their test-taking ability.
    • Educate students on the importance of focus and on task behavior in the classroom. Students who are engaged in the learning process and acting appropriately during teacher instruction will have a better chance of showing what they have learned during a test.
    • Show students how to take notes from teacher lectures. Create a lesson taking template where students can put the topic on the left side of the notebook and the specifics from the teacher lecture in the body of the page next to the topic. Students should have guided practice in note-taking along with practice in how to study the notes and apply their understanding of the content to tests.
    • Differentiate tests that are modified according to the student's IEP (Individualized Education Plan). If the IEP notes that students need extra time to complete tests, then make sure that students have that time in the classroom or in the resource room with IA (Instructional Assistant) support. In addition, if the student's IEP notes that students need assistive technology or other accommodations to complete tests, then teachers are legally obligated to provide those additions during test-taking opportunities.
    • Teach students how to review their notes and ask clarity questions in preparing for the tests. Create pair-share test review times during the class period. Have collaborative opportunities for students to practice testing timeframes and complete practice tests that have some semblance to the real test within those timeframes.
    • Engage students in using a variety of preparation strategies for creating visual clues and graphics in processing the learning concepts from the lectures. Have students rewrite their notes as questions and answers and create charts and graphs in relating the learning to meaningful processes that help them remember content material.
    • Build confidence in students that they can and will do well on tests. Students who believe they can do well and who have followed the strategies in test-taking will do well on tests. Belief is the first step to positive test-taking outcome. Taking the test is the next.

    Students with special needs who have a study guide for tests, projects, study organization, content subject areas or for charting a course of academic study have already implemented the belief in themselves as A+ students and test-takers.