Test Prep Frequently Asked Questions
It’s never too early to start and you already have. When you taught her colors, numbers, and even games, you are helping her prepare for future challenges. Play games together, challenge her with mental math calculations, and read together. Make learning fun. Let her challenge you – and make mistakes. Show her that you keep on trying even if you goof.
Yes and no. They are fair in that the tests are administered under the same requirements (time, space, bubble sheets, pencils, etc.) and are the same questions. They are unfair in that not all students have been exposed to the same information. For example, one class has covered all the multiplication tables and another class has not. If multiplying 9 x 8 is required for a problem, students who haven’t learned that information are at a disadvantage. This example is just one kind of potential deficit. Data show that students in wealthy neighborhoods are ahead of students in low-income neighborhoods.
Just like anything we do in life, if we prepare and practice, we do better. Becoming familiar with the test and the way test writers create tricky answers will help her avoid their traps. [That’s why we wrote Becoming Test Savvy.]
First, assess your own attitude about standardized tests. Do they make you anxious? Are you anxious for your child? If so, you are not alone, but you don’t want to transmit this anxiety to you child. Think of the test as a challenging game for which you and your child can prepare. Second, help your child to think of the test as a game: sometimes he will get the right answer and sometimes he won’t, but that’s OK. It’s not a teacher-made test. He’s not trying to get a perfect score. Taking off that pressure can make a big difference in his anxiety.
Many strategies can help students answer test questions correctly. One of our favorite strategies is Key 5: The Answer Is on the Page. On a multiple-choice test, the correct answer is there. Students can substitute the answers to determine which one works best. Another favorite strategy is to adopt an attitude that the test is a game with puzzles to be solved. This approach makes a student feel more positive and capable.
A percentile score indicates how a student’s test score compared to all the other students who took the test. (It is not the percent of the questions the student got correct.) If a student did better than 60% of the students who took the test, that student’s percentile score would be 60.
A high stakes test is one that has a minimum threshold for promotion to the next grade or for graduation ore for a scholarship, etc. Students may have several opportunities to take the test, but if they do not meet the required score, they are not promoted, do not receive a diploma, or do not qualify for the scholarship.
Schools use standardized tests to assess students, teachers, and the school. These tests give them a standard of comparison to review how much a student has progressed (from one year to the next), how effective an instructor each teacher is (how one teacher’s students performed compared to other teachers at that grade level), and how well the school is doing (compared to other, similar schools). Federal law requires annual student assessment, starting in 3rd grade.
Convey a positive attitude about taking a test. Encourage your child to see each question as a puzzle or a challenge, like on a video game. Sometimes they figure out the puzzle; sometimes they don’t. But they move on to the next puzzle – they keep trying. Our book, Becoming Test Savvy, is designed for parents and teachers to help their child(ren) learn keys to test-taking success, reduce their anxiety, and become more successful on standardized tests.
In general, teachers explain the test and its format. They may go over some sample questions and how to complete the bubble sheet. They help students become familiar with the test and the testing process. Some teachers may go over test-taking strategies.
Absolutely! All the activities and instruction can be adapted for classroom use.