Test prep – the necessary evil we face every spring is upon us. I hate standardized testing, but it doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s important to prepare our students for it. Proper test prep can increase student confidence, relieve testing anxiety, and improve test scores. I’ve assembled some dos and don’ts to help you keep your test prep fun and valuable and prevent you from adding any undue stress for your students.

Find more test prep information and tips here.

DOs of Test Prep

1. Do plan FUN activities!

Tests are boring, but learning is fun.  Students will thrive when instruction is interactive, engaging, and exciting.  Preparing fun activities keeps students focused and motivated.  This is a tough time of year for both students AND teachers.  Lighten the mood and keep your kids happy as they work. Find some fun ideas in my post 7 Fun Ways to Up Your Test Prep Game and Engage Your Students.


2. Do use the language of the test year-round.

Prepare your students for the verbiage of the test.  Familiarize yourself with the types of questions that the test asks and the ways that those questions are worded.  Using this wording in your questions throughout the year will enable your students to understand test questions and feel confident on test day. Read more about making sure your students understand the language of the test here.

3. Do teach your students test taking strategies.

Test-taking strategies do not come naturally.  Teach your students how you want them to tackle passages, questions, and compositions.  Understanding and using test-taking strategies helps students become effective, successful, and confident test-takers.

Grab my FREE test-taking strategies poster for standardized reading tests here.

4. Do plan a fun review activity.

Review games are a great way to help students review.  The kids get so excited about the game that they don’t even realize how hard they are working.  Some fun ideas include trash can basketball, PowerPoint Jeopardy!, and Kahoot.

Find more fun ideas in my post 7 Fun Ways to Up Your Test Prep Game and Engage Your Students.

5. Do prepare your students for the schedule of test day.

When is lunch?  Will we have recess?  How long do I have to take the test?  What if I don’t finish?

Test day is intimidating enough without adding all this uncertainty.  Start by familiarizing yourself with testing procedures and testing administrator responsibilities.  Think about things such as whether you need to provide snacks and what time you need to finish reading the directions.  Explain the day’s schedule and procedures to your students ahead of time.  This will allow their minds to focus on the test rather than questioning what time lunch is.

6. Do give motivational treats and notes!

Your students love getting gifts from you, no matter how small.  Giving your students a small treat with a note lets them know that you are thinking about them and they are important to you.  While a handwritten, personalized note for each individual student is certainly the sweetest gift, it may not be practical for everyone.  A simple note that you print and cut for the students can be just as exciting for students to receive. Grab my FREEBIE here!

7. Do involve parents!

Parents are such an important tool when it comes to student motivation and encouragement.  Express to them the importance of “pumping up” the kids for the test.  Encourage them to speak positively about the test with the students.  Have families create encouraging posters for their children and hang them up in the classroom or hallway.

DON’Ts of Test Prep

1. Don’t talk about the test year-round.

student-with-hands-on-face-and worried-expression-in-front-of-blackboard-with-test-written-multiple-times

Talking about the test all year does not increase student performance.  It increases student stress.  Yes, YOU will likely be thinking about and preparing for the test all year (it’s hard to help), but they do not need to be a part of this.  Teach with the standards in mind and keep the students focused on learning.  There is no point in causing the students to start worrying in August about a test they will take in May.

We’ve always started our test prep lessons about 6 – 8 weeks prior to test day.  This allows us to teach at the depth and rigor of the standards before we review for the test.

2. Don’t only use test-like materials.

Of course, you will want to show the students what the test will look like, but don’t limit yourself to only those materials.  Preparing for the test does not mean only exposing the students to one type of text or format.  Using a mixture of high-interest materials and test-like materials will both engage and prepare your students.

3. Don’t “drill and kill”.


Finally, and possibly most importantly, please do not turn school into a never-ending series of worksheets.  Boring your students to tears will not make them learn more or perform better.  Keep learning fun and engaging.


hello, i'm laura heinen from cultivating critical readers

I help third and fourth grade RLA teachers like you create engaging and effective reading lessons without all the stress.

get your free figurative language interactive notebook here


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