FAIRWEATHER: Test taking 101: Tips and tactics

Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 04:44 PM.

Frequently, a parent will ask me to help their child study for tests.  This article presents specific tips I have developed over the years working with children at many grade levels.

First, children must understand that learning doesn’t just happen. Learning is a process where the teacher imparts knowledge through direct instruction, requires text to be read, assigns homework and tests progress. The student must be involved in all of these steps to gain the desired knowledge and prove that it has been gained.

Learning through direct instruction requires, at minimum, that the student pay attention to the teacher. Success at this demands that the student listen, take notes, and ask questions. Students must listen to the teacher with full attention. If something said is not clear, then that is the time to get it straight.  Careful listening is required not only to get the required information, but to get clues of what will be on the tests. 

For example, teachers may repeat some items, especially concepts or definitions. Or, teachers may even raise their voices to stress key items that students may find on the test.

The September/October 2013 issue of "Scientific American Mind" has an article on the best ways to study, based on research. It was found that using flash cards was the most effective. Students should make their own flashcards using their text and classroom instruction. One side of the flash card has a word or concept. The other side contains the definition of that word or concept. There are apps that allow for the creation of flash cards on mobile devices.  The article further recommends that the flash cards should be made as soon as possible when starting a new chapter and be studied — repeatedly.

Students should learn how to write questions that could be on the test. The idea is that they can predict what might be asked, thus preparing themselves in advance. There are four basic test formats. They are multiple choice, fill in the blank, short answer and short essay.

Multiple choice questions are where a question is asked and answer choices are given.  The student must make the right choice. By predicting these type of questions and researching possible answers, the student will quickly learn to find the right one. Multiple choice questions are the most frequently encountered because they are used in the FCAT exams.

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