How many times have you heard a parent say that one or more of their children never does well on standardized tests? Standardized tests are a rotten fact of life for many school-aged children. While they do serve a purpose, standardized tests often do not provide a full story of what a child is capable of.
The good news is that with a little practice and a few tips, you can teach your child some great test taking skills that will help them not only while taking standardized tests, but also for all tests they will take during their school career.
General Tips- First, here are a few simple but important basics that apply to all types of tests:
- Although your child may be “cool” with testing, even the bravest have a few worries. You play it cool too. Emphasize that their best effort is what is important.
- During testing, some schools allow the child to have a snack during a short resting period. Please, no sugary or high carb snacks because you do not want your child to crash mid-test. Instead, try a cheese stick, an apple, or a protein bar.
- Read the directions. The mistakes children often make have to do with reading the directions, not just the first sentence of the directions, but all of them. An example can explain this very well. Children are asked to 1. write about a picture and 2. to tell what they thought was happening in the picture.
- One child did not write about what was happening in the picture.
- Another child wrote a story that had very little to do with the picture.
- The third child wrote what he/she thought was happening in the picture.
- The fourth child wrote what he/she thought was going on in the picture and gave lots of examples from the picture.
Needless to say, the fourth child scored very well, but the others less so. All of the children were capable of doing a fine job, but did not do as well as they could have because they did not understand what they were supposed to do.
- Another valuable skill is editing. Teach your child to ask themselves these questions:
- Did I say what they asked for in the directions?
- Did I spell correctly, use use correct grammar and capitals and punctuation?
- Finally, do I like my piece? There is usually time to do all this in a test. Another great trick is to indent a few paragraphs and put in a conversation of some sort complete with quotation marks.
Multiple Choice Reading Tests - Multiple choice tests usually have a reading selection. Then there are a few questions with 4-5 possible answers. Here are some tips.
1. Read the directions
2. Read the title, which includes a hint about the selection.
3. Read the first sentence of each paragraph.
4. Read each question, but not the answers (because 3 of the 4 answers are wrong, and we don’t want these in our brain.)
5. Now it is time to read the whole selection. The child already knows vaguely what the selection is about, so the information is more likely to stick. The child is also more likely to choose the correct answer.
6. Rule out the answers that are definitely not correct, and that reduces the chance of making a mistake.
Math and Science
Math tests often ask the student to write a sentence or two about how they got the answer. It will say that in the directions if they want that. It could be as simple as this: “I knew I had to add those numbers because they wanted to know how many.” It could be very much more complex for the older the student. He/she should just tell what their thinking was to get the answer. If possible, I always suggested drawing a little picture. It helps with focus.
I hope these little hints will be helpful to your child. It is a great idea to practice these skills. If a child knows what to expect, and some possible ways to respond, they will feel much more comfortable, and therefore do a better job. If you have access to practice tests, practice as much as you can. Many standardized tests offer sample tests on the web. Don’t just make your child do tests over and over again, but look at them together to see if there are any traps or better yet, clues to help.
Nana is a retired school teacher with 35 years of classroom experience. She holds BA and MEd degrees from Tufts University, and a Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant certificate from William Paterson University. Her experience includes teaching 2nd through 8th grade in public and private schools. She currently tutors children with varying degrees of need, ranging from children on the autism spectrum or with learning disabilities to children needing specific subject help. She also works with children on their study skills, academic organizational skills and test- taking skills. Have a question? Ask Nana! She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nana is a retired school teacher with 35 years of classroom experience. She holds BA and MEd degrees from Tufts University, and a Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant certificate from William Paterson University. Her experience includes teaching 2nd through 8th grade in public and private schools. She currently tutors children with varying degrees of need, ranging from children on the autism spectrum or with learning disabilities to children needing specific subject help. She also works with children on their study skills, academic organizational skills and test- taking skills. Have a question? Send Nana an email!