1. Make sure that your students are prepared for next-generation assessments
The days of the basic #2 pencil test have come and gone. In addition to preparing your students for the more rigorous content that next-generation assessments will test, you must be sure that they are prepared for the online format of the test. Make sure that they are familiar with the kinds of devices that assessments will be administered through, that they know how to navigate the test forms, and that they have been exposed to technology-enhanced (TE) item types. Dedicate class time to preparing students for the technical aspects of next-generation assessments so that on test day, they can effectively demonstrate their content knowledge.
2. Benchmark your learners
Benchmark assessments can help you identify which learners are on track or ahead of grade level and which ones have knowledge gaps. They can also help you develop a plan for conducting effective review sessions that will target the skills and concepts your students need to work on.
3. Practice, practice, practice!
The cliché is true: practice does make perfect. Create a review plan that provides multiple chances for students to practice not only the content they will need to know but also the testing format. Make sure that your plan includes modalities beyond taking practice tests—games, writing, and speech exercises can help students retain information and gain a deeper understanding of concepts. The more exposure that students have to the material and testing environment, the more comfortable they will be when testing day arrives.
4. Leverage your data
Chances are that you have access to a significant amount of data on your students, whether it is data from previous exams or data collected in the classroom using online programs. Make use of this data to differentiate instruction and track students’ progress as you review. It can also help you evaluate your review strategy and refine it from week to week to meet students’ needs.
5. Provide students with incentives
A reward system can take some of the anxiety out of test preparation, add a little fun to your review efforts, and create a healthy dose of competition to keep your students motivated. Set specific goals for students to meet, and give them something to look forward to when they meet them—be it a treat, game time, or any other kind of incentive you use in your classroom.
6. Embrace the power of previewing
Your students are probably familiar with the strategy of previewing text before diving in, and it can be a very helpful strategy for testing. Encourage your students to preview test sections before answering questions to help pace themselves and give their brains time to absorb the information. It is also a very important strategy for students to be successful on the new TE item types, which come with their own sets of directions.
7. Let parents help
It’s no secret that parental involvement plays a huge role in students’ academic success, and this can certainly extend to success on assessments. Involve parents in your classroom test preparation activities by communicating with them on a regular basis about what you (and their child) are doing to get ready. This gives parents the opportunity to engage with their children about what is happening in class and to convey ways in which they can help their child at home. Want more tips on how to increase parent involvement? Check out this blog post!
8. Create a culture of positivity
As Henry Ford is credited for saying, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t—you’re right.” Start getting students thinking about what will happen when they meet their testing goals instead of getting caught up in the nervousness of testing season. Perhaps squeeze in a quick writing assignment asking students to picture themselves next year in honors classes /graduating/going to college/having a cool job. The mind is a powerful weapon, and it has a unique gift for making things happen that don’t seem possible.
9. Add “catering manager” to your resume
A lot of research has been done on the effects of food (specifically, lack of food) and test performance. Make sure that students are well fed at the start of every testing day. Encourage them to eat a good breakfast at home (tell their parents too!), stock up on granola bars, or consider bringing bagels for your class. On a similar note, make sure that your students are hydrated—studies show that students need a sip of water every 10 minutes when they are working.
10. Keep students moving
We all know that exercise is a great stress reliever. Incorporate regular movement into your review sessions to improve students’ retention. On testing day, give your students the chance to move around before the test begins to help alleviate the pressure. You can also look into seated stretching techniques and share them with your students to use during the test. This video from Mayo Clinic provides some great tips.
- Four Steps to Design Your Own Test-Preparation Boot Camp
- Webb's Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Levels -- The Basics
- Measuring Student Performance and Academic Growth
Looking for an online solution to aid in your test prep efforts? Study Island and Edmentum Assessments offer formative assessment capabilities, targeted content for individualized learning, and real-time reporting to support data-driven instruction. Check out this resource on individualized test preparation to learn more!