Why teach test taking strategies?
Teaching your students test taking strategies equips them with the tools necessary to be successful in the testing environment. By no means should you “drill and kill” or focus your teaching solely on the test, but you still have the responsibility of preparing them for test day. Students feel most confident when they know what to do. Teaching these strategies gives them a routine that they can remember and follow. Click here to read more about how to prepare your students for test day.
Test Taking Strategies
These strategies resemble what we do as good readers every time that we read a new text. As we work through a passage, I point out the similarities of the strategies on test day to those that we use as good readers.
Read the title and scan the text.
This helps the students to gather information about the text before they read. We look for headings, pictures, diagrams, etc. This activates the students’ schema (background knowledge), preparing them to make predictions.
Predict the genre and topic.
Now the students use the information they gathered from the title and scanning the text to make predictions about the genre and topic. I teach my students that it is important to know the genre of the text before we read it because we read each genre differently. This has been taught and routinely practiced prior to preparing for the standardized test.
Read and analyze the questions.
This is just like setting the purpose for reading during a guided or shared reading lesson. The difference is that the students are using the test questions to set their own purpose. Knowing what you are looking for as you read helps you read the text closer and with purpose.
Read the text.
As students are reading the text they are on the lookout for any parts that are asked about in the questions. We put stars next to parts that we think are important to our purpose (the questions).
Some students tend to race through their reading. When I have a student guilty of “speed reading” and not thinking through their reading, I have him/her make small notes/annotations next to the paragraph. I do not do this with every student, and I would caution against using this strategy with your struggling readers and/or writers. Forcing a student who is already struggling through the passage to write notes will just end in frustration and possibly tears.
Answer the questions using text evidence and the process of elimination.
As we read each answer choice we determine if it is a possibility. If we can say without a shadow of a doubt that the answer choice is incorrect, we put and X beside it. If, however, we can’t prove that it is incorrect, it receives either a question mark or a check mark. I teach the students never to eliminate an answer choice unless you can prove with text evidence that it is incorrect. We then assess the remaining possibilities and choose the answer choice that is supported by the best text evidence.
Do the two-finger check.
This means that the student puts one finger on the circled answer choice in the test booklet and one on the bubbled answer choice on the answer document. It is simply a check for the student to make sure that he/she bubbled in an answer for each question on the answer document. Sometimes my students laugh at this one, but once I explain to them that they do this check to make sure they get credit for all of their hard work, I see them putting it to use.