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We know that most teachers dislike assessing students strictly through exams, but testing is a big part of our profession. No matter how you feel about in-class assessments or standardized testing, it’s our job as teachers to best prepare our students for tests, as well as for life. Whether it’s an end of chapter test, a final exam, or a state-required test, we must do our best to prepare our students to succeed in learning and retaining information, as well as in performing well on their assessments.
Teach Them How to Study
Effective studying looks different for every individual, but giving your students some creative ways to study will help them substantially. Have each student try out a variety of different study techniques and let them self-evaluate to see which one or ones worked best. Some students will retain information simply by writing down important facts or recopying their original notes. Other students may need to read their notes aloud multiple times. Other students will benefit more from using flashcards and quizzing themselves. Every student learns differently, so teaching them various ways to study will offer each student different opportunities to review the material in ways that will help them better retain what they need to know for the upcoming test.
Pinpoint Important Concepts
This is definitely easier to do on a test that you are giving your own students than with a standardized test, but you can still go over general concepts that you expect to be on a state-required test. Pinpointing certain concepts will help students to prioritize what they’re studying. Younger students, in particular, are not always good at identifying what the teachers deem as the most important concepts, so encouraging your students to review a particular chapter or make sure they know a certain concept well will help them make the most of their study time. In the same way, if you have a vocabulary section on an upcoming test or something other than just demonstrating a concept, giving your students a heads-up will help them to study relevant material and to not be overwhelmed when they see something unexpected on an exam.
Have Students Facilitate Reviews
You already know the information that is being tested, and simply going over such information repeatedly can limit student engagement with the content. Have your students facilitate reviews or look up concepts during a review. If one student asks a question about something in particular, ask the class if anyone knows the answer. Getting students involved and encouraging a more discussion-oriented review will be more beneficial for the whole class. Encourage participation of all students in any way you can because when students are more actively engaged in the discussion and the review, they are more likely to retain the information.
Provide Incomplete Study Guides
Providing a study guide is great, but providing an incomplete study guide is even better. Leave blanks throughout, pose questions, offer problems that need to be solved, and so on. When students have to actively work to create themselves a study guide, they are more likely to remember the information well and be able to utilize it effectively for the upcoming test. You can allow students to work in groups or individually, and you can go over the study guide in class to ensure everyone is studying the correct information.
Have Students Quiz & Test Each Other
This can come in the form of flashcards, asking questions from the study guide, or actually creating short quizzes for each other. When students teach or explain a concept to someone else, they tend to retain that knowledge better themselves. Therefore, allowing them to test someone else’s knowledge will benefit both students involved. Students can write out short quizzes and then trade with other students. They can then grade the quizzes they wrote and discuss any wrong answers with their peer who took their quiz.
Offer Practice Exams
If you can offer your students a practice exam for a big test coming up, it can help them see how prepared they are for the actual exam, gauge how much studying they need to do, and what concepts they should focus their studying on. Be sure to give the practice exams close to the actual test, but not too close, so that students still have time to study whatever they weren’t are prepared for on the practice exam. Even if you are preparing students for an unfamiliar standardized test, you likely have some insight or information as to what’s on the test and can create your own practice exam for them to take in class. Be sure to leave plenty of time to review the exam and allow students to ask questions about particular questions or concepts.
Play a Review Game
Review games can sometimes be more time-consuming that beneficial, but they are a good way to get students excited and engaged in reviewing material and preparing for a test. Students love playing games, and as long as the game is actually effective at reviewing and helps students review, there is no harm in doing so. Check out this awesome list of review games that won’t waste your time to get some ideas for your next test review.
Deal with Test Anxiety
While some students complain about tests because they’re simply unprepared for them, others may suffer from very real test anxiety. This may involve a struggle to memorize information or learn facts, feeling sick before or during a test, or an inability to recall familiar information during an exam. Explain to your students that they must try their best on each test they take, but a poor test grade is not the end of the world and they should not stress about it. There is a big difference between working hard to be prepared for a test and panicking and stressing out about taking a test. Ignoring test anxiety will not benefit the students who truly suffer from it, but approaching tests with calmness, positivity, and confidence in your students will likely help your entire class perform better.
Encourage Stress-Management Techniques Before and During Big Tests
Some students may panic before or in the midst of a big test regardless of how much they have prepared for it. Encourage students to be conscious of their breathing during exams and allow for time for them to stand up, stretch, and walk around a little during exams, if possible. Remind students to eat a good breakfast and drink plenty of water the day of the test, and remind them that sleeping can sometimes be more beneficial than late-night studying. It’s also a great idea to have some extra supplies for students who may have been forgetful because of test stress, such as pencils, erasers, and calculators, so that they don’t have one more thing to worry about on test day.
Be Positive and Teach Your Students to Be Too!
This one may seem simple, but positivity can go a very long way. Studies have proven that when high expectations are placed on students, they tend to perform better than when low expectations are placed on them, regardless of their prior academic achievement. In the same way, many adults know the impact of positive thinking and a positive environment, so do your best to provide that to your students. Ensure them that you know they’re all going to do great because they have worked hard, they are prepared for this exam, and they are all more than capable of excelling on the upcoming test. Encourage them to practice their own positive thinking, and bring that positivity into the testing day.