Test Taking Tips

Every classroom needs to practice test taking tips.  This time of year as teachers are preparing their students for complex math test questions, let’s prepare our students’ perseverance and problem solving skills!

Test Taking Tips # 1:

Warm up your class every day with a large group mini-lesson.  Give your class a complex problem.  Then give them time to THINK about the problem, PAIR together, and SHARE their ideas together while trying to solve the problem.  This builds confidence and mathematics thinking in your students.  In this set-up, they can work and learn with help from another student.

Test Taking Tips # 2:

Once your students solve one problem, give them another one using some information from the first problem.  This helps the students prepare for multi-step problems.  Also students learn to make connections between ideas, just like in real life.

Test Taking Tips # 3

Celebrate everything and anything!  Let’s celebrate each learner and each step they can solve on their own.  Students show their work.  We then analyze different solutions. My students learn to feel secure in showing their work.  They like earning points for their work. (Just like on the tests where multiple points are granted for answer solutions.)  Every student learns the lesson that on some standardized tests, your personal best is what counts.

For instance,  in my fourth grade class, we have been practicing finding perimeter and area of regular polygons.  On Friday, I gave my students an irregular polygon.  I told them it was my new fence for my dog at home.  The question posed was “What is the perimeter?”  They thought for a moment and began with their partner.  Some students drew examples on graph paper while others started writing the equation to solve it.  After three minutes, each group shared how they attempted to solve.  As a group we decided the parts of the solution that earned points.  After practicing this for one week, they have become more confident mathematicians.

The story continued.  I need to buy grass seed to cover the area of the ground with grass.  Then the next question was “What is the area?” Again the students worked by drawing the shape and counting the square units.  Next I had them try to figure out an equation that would help.  YES, it was hard.  YES, I had students asking questions. (That is a good thing:)  Some became anxious.  BUT they had a partner and they were working in a safe environment.  Several weeks of this practice will help students become successful mathematicians.

No matter the state you teach in, be sure to check sample test questions on your state’s Department of Education website.  Here is a link to the Indiana DOE site. Then scroll down to Test Samples and click on your grade level.  Have fun using these test taking tips!