State tests are approaching quickly. It’s time to make sure your students have the test-taking strategies they need to succeed. We teach these strategies all year long, but this is a good time for a quick review. Keep reading to learn the top test-taking strategies to teach your students, and download my FREE Test Prep Toolkit that will walk you through 10 steps to prepare your students for the state tests.
Top Test-Taking Strategies to Teach Your Students
As a third grade teacher, my students are new to state tests. They need to be taught some strategies for how to answer test questions. I start introducing them to strategies at the beginning of the school year. When we take math tests, we talk about how to read the questions carefully. When we read passages, we discuss going back into the text to find evidence. Early in the year, my students are equipped with test-taking strategies to help them on every assessment they take.
Before state testing, I take a little bit of time to review and practice all of our test-taking strategies. However, we don’t spend a lot of time “teaching to the test.” Everything is built into my normal reading and math lessons.
Here are my top test-taking strategies to teach your students:
#1 – Underline key words in the question.
We start practicing this strategy with our first math test. The third grade math tests in enVision are so much harder than the second grade tests. There is a lot more reading and application of the skills. For the first few tests, I go through the test with my class. We pick out the important words and underline them with a colored pencil or pen. That way, when they take the test, they can focus on the important parts.
We transfer this skill to reading as well. Now, any time they take a test, my students go through first and underline the key words in the questions. This really helps them read carefully and identify what is important.
#2 – Eliminate incorrect answers.
In the beginning of the year, my students tend to choose the first multiple choice answer that makes any sense. This often results in the wrong answer. We practice reading all 4 answer choices carefully. Then, we eliminate any choices that we know aren’t correct. If the students can eliminate two answer choices, they have a 50% chance of getting the question correct, which is better than 25%.
In the past, my students used their scratch paper to write down the letters they can eliminate. That kept them from making stray marks on their testing books. This year, we are taking the tests on our Chromebooks. The testing program has a really neat feature where the students can put an X on the incorrect answers.
#3 – Read the questions before the passage.
I teach my students to read the questions before the passage. They underline the key words in the questions and then look for those key phrases as they are reading the passage. They underline any parts of the passage they think will be helpful for answering the questions.
I know some teachers expect their students to read the passage, read the questions, and then reread the passage to find the answers. Some of the passages on state testing are REALLY long. Many of my students struggle with staying focused to read the passage two times. I’ve found that they are more successful when they read it once with the questions in mind.
#4 – Practice scoring open-ended responses.
The thing that helps my students most with open-ended responses is looking at samples. Sometimes I use the ones that are included with the state testing samplers. Other times I save my students’ responses from the previous year.
I start by looking at the rubric with my students and discussing what makes a 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. Next, we look at sample responses together and talk about how we would score them. The students are very good at picking out what the other students did well and what they could improve.
Then, my students write open-ended responses for a different passage. We look at the 3’s and 4’s together and talk about what those students did well. My students work really hard to earn a 3 or 4 and have their response shared with the class. I meet with the students who had a 0, 1, or 2 in strategy groups to improve their responses.
#5 – Make practicing fun.
Practicing these test-taking skills can be really boring. However, I’ve found a few ways to make it more fun.
- Play Kahoot. I have my students read a passage and answer the multiple choice questions using our test-taking strategies. Then, I put the questions into a Kahoot game and use it to check their answers. We stop to talk about any questions that a lot of students missed. Kahoot is a great motivator, since they love playing it for any reason.
- Make it into a board game. When I’m going over the answers to questions as a whole class, many of my students don’t pay attention. That’s why I created a board game for going over the multiple choice questions. There is one star on the board for each question. I give each student a BINGO chip, and they get to move it to the next space each time an answer is correct. Everyone follows along when we go over answers this way. Download my game board template at the bottom of this post. You can edit it to match the number of questions with your passage.
Prepare Your Students for State Testing
Finding passages and questions to prepare your students for state tests can be challenging. Look no further. These test prep resources include mini lessons to teach your students test-taking strategies, passages with multiple choice questions, practice with open-ended responses and an end of the week assessment to check for mastery of the standards. There are even 3 escape room activities to make test prep more fun!
Remember to download my Test Prep Toolkit for more tips that will help you prepare your students for the state tests.
Now that your students have the test-taking strategies they need to succeed, find out how to motivate them to do well on state testing.
If state tests are stressing your students, check out these tips for relieving their test-taking anxiety.
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What Do You Think?
What test-taking strategies do you teach your students?
Let me know in the comments below.
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Plus, download this game board to make practicing test-taking strategies more fun!
Carly Black says
I learned years ago that students have a greater mathematical probability of finding the right answer when reading multiple choice questions D to A. I always tell the kids, even if it sounds weird try it because it will keep you focused rather than doing the remote response of A to D.
Tara Dusko says
That’s a great tip, Carly! I’m definitely trying that next time we practice multiple choice questions!
Yes, yes and yes! When I taught 3rd grade I made it a point to teach testing skills. Most errors on tests would be from lack of test taking skills. We did a lot of test prep to practice these skills too. I think some may forget that we need to teach kids this. Thank you!
Tara Dusko says
You’re right, Christine. Third graders definitely don’t come in knowing how to take a test. Our first math tests are awful until they learn how to read the test and think about what the questions are asking.