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Top 5 Test Prep Tips for Adult Learners

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 -- Beth Holine

Preparing for testing isn't easy! That is why we have put together some useful tips that will guide you to help your learners prepare for high-stakes testing:

1. Benchmark Your Learners

Even before you get started preparing learners for their assessments, it’s very important to know what strengths and needs they have. A benchmark assessment can help you identify where learners are individually and comparatively with their peers. You can then use this information to help determine your instructional strategies or the direction your program needs to take.

2. Leverage Your Data

If you have data from your learners, whether from previous exams or homework, use it! This data can be your best tool to differentiate instruction and determine how to prepare your learners for testing. Make use of formative assessment strategies to identify which concepts and skills your learners are struggling with and where individualized attention is needed. Online instructional tools—like Edmentum Sensei—can be a great way to obtain actionable data.

3. Review and Practice

Create an instructional plan to review content. You may have to give a diagnostic quiz to clarify where the lack of understanding is occurring. Once you determine where the challenge exists, review the material and possibly introduce other resources. Practice will not be constructive unless the learners understand the content.

Simulated practice tests can ensure that your learners are making the desired amount of progress before a high-stakes exam and can help refine instruction. Provide multiple opportunities for practice. All practice experiences should emulate the test in the style of questioning, as well as presentation. This creates a setting where your students are more comfortable for the testing environment that they will experience. If they will take the test online, then practice should be digital so that learners develop the skills they will need for the exam. Many tests make use of new technology-enhanced item types that better assess the depth of learners’ knowledge than traditional multiple-choice questions (learn more about next-generation assessments in the next tip). Now, more than ever, learners need to read the whole question, the entire passage, and all of the answer choices to know what is expected of them.

Checking out the table of contents, chapter titles, and index can tell you a lot about a text. Familiarity with this reading strategy can help during testing as well. Instruct learners to preview a test section before starting to answer questions. It can help them pace themselves (so that they don’t run out of time and feel rushed), and it gives the brain the opportunity to start retrieving information in the background while answering other questions.

4. Ensure That Learners Are Prepared for Next-Generation Assessments

Not only are next-generation assessments more rigorous, but they may be presented in a format that learners are unfamiliar with. Gone are the days when pure content knowledge and a pencil were all that students would need to succeed on a test.

Below are a few things your learners will need to have to be successful:

  • Device Familiarity
  • Understanding of How to Navigate the Test
  • Exposure to Technology-Enhanced Item Types
  • Basic Keyboarding Skills

Make sure that your institution is giving learners enough preparation and time with these items to ensure success. You can check out this blog post on addressing adult learner skill gaps for more information and tips.

5. Create a Culture of Positivity Before the Test

As Henry Ford is credited for saying, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t—you’re right.” Though some anxiety can be helpful, making learners feel the urgency to prepare, it can turn detrimental quickly, undermining the preparation that has been done. So, try to keep the atmosphere loose and fun while still presenting the importance of the test. Find out what would get your learners excited, and start planning!

Test taking is a skill, and knowing how to take a test correctly can improve scores dramatically. As an extra resource for your learners, we have put together a test-taking checklist to help ensure that they are prepared. You can view the checklist here.