Preparing your Class for Standardized Tests: Teaching Students How to Take Tests

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They’re Permanent

Whether you like them or not, the use of standardized tests in public schools has increased steadily . Consequently, standardized test preparation has become an integral part of the curriculum.

Teach your students to follow these standardized test tips; otherwise, you’re school will be the laughing-stock of your state, and people will make fun of you.

Prepare Early

In an instant gratification society, students want to know everything immediately. Any successful person understands, however, that success resembles a crockpot more than a microwave. Even though there are standardized test tips that help, there is no sufficient substitute for teaching the material and the required skills.

It’s impossible to prepare for college entrance or proficiency exams by cramming the night before. Attending classes, paying attention, doing assignments, and reading and writing daily remove the need for last minute studying. The sooner we teach young people this simple lesson, the more prepared they will be for success.

Teach Preparation

Teach students that preparation eliminates fear. Completing practice tests beforehand removes the mystery of the test along with unnecessary anxiety. Give ample time in class on a regular basis for practicing test questions and familiarizing students with the test format

Showing up prepared—mentally and physically—on the day of the test involves getting plenty of rest the night before and food the day of. Bringing multiple #2 pencils will provide a backup in case one breaks. Showing up a few minutes early, getting situated, and reducing stress through relaxation techniques helps. If you believe in prayer, right before the test is a good time to employ it.


Once the test appears on the desk, students have a tendency to tune out, causing them to miss important instructions. Teach students to listen and understand all directions before starting.

Students should know how much time they have and pace themselves accordingly. It also behooves the ambitious scholar to understand how the test is scored and whether or not guessing is penalized.

Improving Test Taking Skills

Test Wiseness

The wise test taker does the following:

1) answers easy questions first;

2) uses appropriate guessing strategies;

3) eliminates wrong answers on tough questions;

4) uses external information;

5) rereads the question;

6) uses deductive reasoning; and

7) looks for similarities in wording and phrasing.

For the most part, standardized tests are reading tests with specialized vocabulary. The wise test-taker familiarizes himself with all subject specific vocabulary. For most standardized math tests, formulas are provided. Make sure students understand how and when to use each formula.

Guess Intelligently

Teach students to guess intelligently. An intelligent guesser does the following:

1) eliminates one or two answer choices, if possible;

2) uses guessing as a last resort;

3) always flags, circles, or stars the guessed answer as a reminder to review carefully;

4) is especially alert to negatives and absolutes.

When guessing, keep in mind the most likely correct answer is:

1) the most complete statement;

2) “all of the above”;

3) the longest choice;

4) one of two opposites;

5) the most general statement;

6) answers in the middle.

Be Positive

Always refer to standardized tests enthusiastically and positively, even if you hate them. Students will mimic their teacher’s attitude. Encourage students and affirm to them how easily they’re going to pass. Get students excited about being able to demonstrate how much they’ve learned. Help students visualize success and success will follow.

Remember: having a positive attitude won’t solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth your effort.