Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Test Taking Strategies that Matter

Every contest, assessment, test and task profits from a good strategy. I've watched my sons for years employ good strategy to make money, win sports matches, and achieve in school. I've also watched them employ wrong strategies and not achieve do to that. Good strategy matters.

As I think of this during the spring term which has come to be known as testing season, I want to make sure that I teach students positive test taking strategy--strategy that has helped students do their best on assessments and tests.

The strategies I teach include the following:
  • If the test is untimed, take your time. Students who rush generally don't do as well as students who take their time.
  • Read carefully and break down complex text. You can often turn complex text into a visual model, picture, comic strip, or equation to help you solve a problem. You should also visualize as you read by reading slow enough to see a picture or movie in your mind. 
  • Sometimes it helps to change the name of a person in a word problem to your own name as that helps you to step into the problem and understand it better.
  • Complete all calculations on paper and check those calculation by using the inverse operation or doing the calculation twice. Students who take the time to calculate precisely do better.
  • When completing multiple choice questions, do the following:
    • Read the question carefully while covering up the answer choices.
    • Solve the problem on paper and write down your answer.
    • Then and only then look at the answer choices. You typically can eliminate two answers right away, and then have to figure out which is the right answer between one that is close to right and one that is the correct answer.
  • If there is a chance to listen to the questions, where head phones and listen as you read. This can often help you to comprehend the question better.
  • If there's the chance to go back and answer problems later, do the problems you understand well first to warm up your brain and start positively, then go back and answer the problems you found to be more difficult.
  • If you don't know an answer at all, it's typically best to make a guess. Use your good judgement when making a guess and choose what you think would be a reasonable answer. Often thinking about why a test maker would add that question helps you to identify a reasonable answer--usually test makers are testing you on specific content and standards so think about what they are testing you on and then determine what is most reasonable.
  • When you don't know what a word means, sometimes you have the ability to ask a teacher for clarification of definitions. If that's not possible, think about other words that sound like or look like that word--that often gives you a clue. Sometimes you can actually read a problem and leave out the difficult word and still get the problem right--sometimes those tricky words don't matter to the problem. 
I will probably add to this list in time, and if you have any other great strategies, let me know.