Taking tests may not be your child's favorite part of school, but evaluating student comprehension is important to the learning process. Some students dislike exams because they don't do well on them. While getting a low score can be discouraging, it doesn't necessarily mean that the student is not capable or does not understand the material. Rather, it could mean that he or she does not know how to properly prepare for the test. In fact, even top students struggle with exams sometimes.
Fortunately, there are practical strategies that students can use before and during a test to ensure they do their best. Share these tips with your students to boost test-taking savvy—and maybe their grades, too!
Before the Test
- Take time to prepare.
Even though many students procrastinate, waiting until the last minute to prepare for a test can be overwhelming and difficult. At least one week prior, students should start studying and getting ready for the big day. This way, they can tackle a little bit of the material each day, instead of cramming it all into their brain at once. Students will also feel much more equipped and confident if they take their time. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
- Use all of the resources available.
Reviewing course notes is a good starting point, but there are many other tools your student can use to study. Make sure your child has all the appropriate resources needed for the test. Teachers often provide study guides and reviews to help students prepare. Many teachers at Connections Academy®–supported public schools conduct real-time online sessions specifically for test preparation. If your student is not sure about what resources to use, encourage him or her to reach out to the teacher for guidance.
- Go through previous assignments and quizzes.
Revisiting old assignments and quizzes is a great way to prepare for an exam. Sometimes teachers even use them to develop their test questions. Have your student spend some time figuring out the correct answer to questions he or she answered incorrectly—you might get to witness an "aha" moment. Checking each assignment and quiz for feedback from the teacher could be valuable for test preparation as well.
- Create your own test.
Once your student is feeling ready to take on the exam, consider creating a homemade test for him or her using the notes, assignments, and study guides. It doesn't have to be long or detailed, but the effort will help your child feel confident. You can also quiz your student verbally if you don't have time to develop a test on paper. Have some fun with it by providing rewards such as a movie or game night for correct answers!
During the Test
- Read carefully.
Remind your child to read through each question carefully before responding. Sometimes questions have several parts and requirements that can cause confusion. It's often helpful for students to read them out loud and number each task that they are being asked to complete. Unless the test is timed, there is no need to rush.
- Make a checklist.
Having a checklist of test-taking tips handy during the test can allow students to self-monitor as they answer questions. It's also a good way for students to build confidence and independence while still feeling supported. If your student is working on an essay question, he or she can use a checklist with reminders including the following: answer all parts of the question, check for punctuation, restate the question, and use as many details as possible.
- Look for clues.
If your child is unsure about a multiple choice question, he or she can narrow down the correct answer by ruling out options that are blatantly incorrect. Your student can then pick the answer that best matches his or her understanding. Additionally, have your child pay close attention to the point values. For instance, if the question says something such as “select all that apply” and it's worth two points, that is an indicator that there are most likely only two correct answers.
- Double check each answer.
Sometimes students get so excited about being done with a test that they forget to go back and check their answers. It may seem like a nuisance, but it's important to double check in order to make sure that each question has been answered completely and thoroughly. Be sure that your child does not leave any answers blank. Even if he or she does not know the answer, an attempted answer is better than no answer—and the effort may earn partial credit.
Test taking can be a bit nerve-wracking for students, but with suitable preparation, guidance, and resources, they can confidently conquer any exam!