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7 Ways to Improve Standardized Testing and Practice

1.  Teach students to “Brain Dump”.  As soon as students are allowed to begin their test, tell them to write everything down that they worked hard to remember, but are afraid that they might forget during the course of the test.  Our state tests give students a math reference sheet, card stock rulers and pattern blocks.  Students could write other formulas down on their reference sheet, write the name of the pattern blocks on the pattern blocks, and write the fractional measurements on their rulers.  If your state doesn’t provide students with these materials, then they may provide them scratch paper, or they may be allowed to write in the test booklet itself.  Students could “brain dump” in these areas.

2.  Have a Mathlete’s Challenge.   To give students a break from the mundane multiple choice test prep and practice, allow them to work in pairs to discuss which answers are correct.  Give the top three student pairs a prize for answering the most questions correctly.  The competition helps keep the students focused on the task.  Students get the benefit of discussing with their partners which answer is correct.  Allow students to move to a quiet corner of the room to work in their pairs.  Remind them that because this is a competition, they need to work quietly so that no one steals their answers.

3.  Weeks before the test make  vocabulary or spelling lists based on most often used language in test questions.  Your list might include words such as represent, approximately, elaborate, explain, outline, trace,  support etc.

4.  Time students like they will be timed when taking their real state tests.  Allow students to see the timer as the minutes pass by to help them pace themselves.

5.  Practice bubbles.  Make sure students are bubbling in the whole bubble.  Practice bubbling in bubbles darkly.

6.  Practice using the calculator.  If students are allowed to use calculators, make sure they know that they are smarter than the calculator and that the calculator is only a tool.  For example, many students may have difficulty inputting money in the calculator.  Instead of typing 0.50 for 50 cents, students type 50 and then add 1.50 for a dollar and fifty cents.  Then they get the wrong answer.  Students also build a misconception around the calculator showing 0.5 and thinking that the calculator is showing them that they have 5 cents and not 50 cents.

Another common misconception students have is when they are dividing numbers.  Students tend to misread the number behind the decimal as the remainder.  On a recent test, I noticed that many students saw 29 and divided it by 5 only to read 5.8 on their calculator screen.  Many of the students wrote that the answer was 5 with 8 leftover (as a remainder) in the word problem.

7.  Eat a peppermint candy.  Peppermint oil is excellent for mental fatigue and depression, refreshing the spirit and stimulating mental agility and improving concentration. It helps for apathy, shock, headache, migraine, nervous stress according to this website and this one.  We always give students a few peppermints during testing to give them an extra boost.

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