Tests, Tests, Tests!
Saying the word “test” in the classroom often evokes eye rolls, slumped shoulders and heavy sighs in the anticipation of a not-so-stellar grade. Hands immediately pop up in the air, and the question of “will there be a study guide?” is asked. While nothing can replace hard work when it comes to getting a good grade on a test, there are some in-class ways to help your students on the road to test-taking success.
Students and teachers alike benefit from clearly communicated expectations. So when it comes to testing, clearly communicating what will be on the test will help to alleviate some student fears. While it may be true that “everything from chapter one to six will be on the test”, saying this usually does not help students prepare. Instead, it may be productive to provide specific big ideas from each chapter to remind students about what they previously learned.
When class time permits, handing out practice tests is a great way to help students see what they need to study, and simulating the testing environment will also give them more confidence when the actual day comes around. Practice tests function as great take-home study tools, as students are able to rework questions or problems that they missed. If time is more of an issue, it never hurts to go over two or three practice questions to at least give students an idea of the types of problems that they can expect on the test.
Additionally, a study guide is always a helpful addition, although the degree to which it is effective varies. Be wary of being overly-general or overly-specific. A study guide that is too general might confuse students who aren’t sure what information to include and what to exclude, while a study guide that is overly-specific will be too easy for students and will not help them while studying. Of course, there are always those students who will choose not to do the study guide. It is certainly confusing that students sometimes choose not to use the resources that are given to them, but the truly motivated students will be grateful for the additional support.
It also helps to be available for students at lunch or even after school for extra help. It is ineffective for students to arrive with questions that they could have easily looked up themselves, so make it clear that this time is reserved for concepts, problems, and ideas that they do not understand and are having trouble figuring out on their own. It may not be desirable to give up every lunch period as a study hall session, however designating a certain time each week to be available for help outside of class will show your students that you are dedicated to their success.
Aside from essay writing, test-taking is perhaps the activity most dreaded by students. There are however ways to help students become better test-takers such as effectively communicating material, conducting practice tests, providing study guides, and being available outside of class for help. Of course, none of these are substitutes for hard work, and sometimes even the best student doesn’t perform well on a test. However, focusing on what you can control about test preparation will help your students prepare and succeed.