Standardized testing is one of the great milestones of the student’s academic life because it is used in evaluation of the students. The conduction of the standardized tests such as ACT, SAT and GRE is done for selection of candidates to be admitted in various courses in different universities. According to Fry (2008), the selection is done on the basis of the score of the standardized test scores and the merit list formed. Therefore, in order to fulfill the desire to pass the standardized test in the first attempt, the student must employ several strategies, techniques, approaches, resources and unique things to be successful. This way, the student will gain a competitive edge over other candidates. The paper discusses research strategies, techniques, approaches, unique things and resources that students use to academically prepare for standardized tests.
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Strategies students can use in preparation for the standardized tests
Embracing predictive reading habits
According to McMeans (2009), reading is one of the most difficult areas for the students to realize improvements during pre course. This is because habits of reading are formed over several years and cannot be significantly changed in mere weeks. Students can embrace reading habits by regularly reading passages of approximate length to those on the tests, and developing predictive reading habits like expressing the main idea, structure, tone, and purpose in the passage. McMeans (2008) observes that these are the common issues that arise in the questions of the passage and therefore, a student should think of them before attempting the questions.
Building of vocabularies
Students should write down words that they are unfamiliar with and look them up later, address any tough word themselves by analyzing their prefixes, roots and suffixes (Powell & Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2001).
Use the internet resources
The internet offers wide and variety of methods for test preparation. There exist cheap online courses that are advantageous because of their availability everywhere so long as there is access to internet. Jasmine & Taggart (1997) points out that the resources available on the internet include questions for practice and explanations, how-to guides and video lessons.
Furthermore, Tileston & Darling (2008) suggests that students should also make use of the internet opportunities such as online interaction with other students and teachers, customized set of practice questions, and even diagnostic feedback allowing for study plans which are tailored. These online resources can be very helpful to the students whose preparation for the standardized test might be limited to the books.
Techniques students can develop and use in preparation for standardized tests
According to Donohue & Reddy (2006), test takers who are successful are always students with good study habits, homework and attendance. Therefore, students should change their attitude towards school and homework. However, Priestley & Chang (2008) points out the key ways a student can develop his or her test taking ability and they include the following:
Optimizing the brain power
Priestly (2005) observers that the students who mostly struggle on testing days are often the ones who did not get good breakfast or enough sleep on the test day. Moreover, mentally and physically unprepared students also encounter problems. Therefore, the student should put all the required tools in place a night before such as the eraser, pencils, calculator and the paper among others. Additionally, if possible, preliminary paperwork should be filled out and if the student is unwell on the day of the test, it is prudent to postpone doing the test rather than risking poor performance (Longyear & McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1983).
Embrace critical thinking skills and good study habits
It is important to review strategies of test taking. Moreover, monitoring of the academic progress and being in good communication with the tutors and the teachers helps the students to ward off any potential problems. Fry (2008) suggests that good reading skills are significant in a timed test; therefore, the student should read many articles, newspapers, magazines and books as much as possible. Moreover, ability to critically think is also tested, so the student should voice his or her opinion and discuss ideas for thought process stimulation (McMeans, 2009).
Be on the know on the expectations
Most of the time the teachers give information on the preparation plans for the class and the test schedule before the date of the test. Therefore, as McMeans (2008) suggests, as a student expecting the test, if you do not hear from the teacher, then you should contact the teacher and find out on the following:
- What is usually the tests format (essay, multiple choice or short answers)
- What will the test measure and what is the name
- How the class will prepare
- Scoring method. Will the incorrect answers be penalized or should you randomly guess when stumped by a difficult question
- When will the results be received
- What are the implications of the test
The student to look at the past performance
According to Powell & Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (2001), if the student has scored low before in a particular area, he or she should exercise more to reinforce on the subject. They should aim for activities that will stimulate the experience of testing such as geometry questions of multiple choice or vocabulary practice. Jasmine & Taggart (1997) observes that workbooks for preparation of standardized tests provide these tests. On the other hand, drilling should be avoided on areas the student excels; lest he or she become bored and lose his or her patience with the test.
The student should request for practice or sample tests from the schools or from the library. Moreover, when practicing, the student should be timed to avoid surprises by time constraints on the test day. Tileston & Darling (2008) suggest that practicing should be done many weeks before the test date and the study sessions should also be kept short. According to Donohue & Reddy (2006), setting of small goals like learning of five new words per session helps the students in measuring their progress and boosting their confidence. Lastly, Priestley & Chang (2008) advises that the student should take time off the night before the examination as cramming can increase the student’s level of stress.
Remain positive and relax
According to Priestly (2005), the best test takers are committed, confident and are at ease. If the student gets nervous, he or she should practice simple techniques of relaxation such breathing deeply or as counting up to ten. These will relieve the accumulated tension in the student.
3 Approach to test preparation
On the other hand, the teachers in various schools apply a three part system approach for the test preparation is a bid to help the students. These include test planning that is customized, targeted building of skills and the test strategy.
Customized test planning
According to Longyear & McGraw-Hill Book Company (1983), the student attends the tutor classes with their set of pre existing skills. They are therefore offered complimentary and evaluation of their set of skills while the test plan is created. Moreover, during this session, the students find out the best fitting test prior to learning the standardized and academic performance, writing, reading, vocabulary and math level and the learning profile. For instance Fry (2008) observes that the students who read a lot of stuffs often perform well on the SAR because it has more vocabulary compared to ACT. Furthermore, students who are linear thinkers find SAT math troublesome and students with data interpretation problem find challenge in ACT science. Besides, some teachers apply custom tools such as the test surveys to assist the students in determining the best tests for them (McMeans, 2009).
Targeted skill building
McMeans, (2008) points out that as part of the process of test planning, the teachers should identify the student’s weakest areas and areas they can progress quickly. This is done by using materials that are custom designed for every test part in targeting the areas identified in their order of priority. Moreover, the students are tested regularly to evaluate their progress in relation to the initial test.
Moreover, Powell & Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (2001) points out that the students should be encouraged to identify their own weaknesses early so as to arrange for tutoring options and holiday reading programs. Early action can assist in nullifying of the specific weakness impact on the standardized tests.
According to Jasmine & Taggart (1997), a successful strategy of a standardized test includes not just an efficient and quick problem solving methods, but also, a focus on alleviation of anxiety. Therefore, the test strategy should have a dual focus: personalized writing, reading and math strategies that optimize the performance of the standardized test and a short and long term methods for test anxiety minimization.
The strategies, techniques and approaches undertaken by the students for the purpose of passing the standardized tests enable them to pass the examination with the first attempt. The strategies, techniques and approaches include collection of entire syllabus and analyzing the areas of relative importance. The students undertake classroom as well as online coaching to develop the skill of time management and accuracy required for passing the standardized tests.
Fry, E. (2008). The reading teacher’s word-a-day: 180 ready-to-use lessons to expand vocabulary, teach roots, and prepare for standardized tests. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey- Bass.
McMeans, J. (2009). Prepare & practice for standardized tests: Math. Westminster, CA: Teacher Created Resources.
McMeans, J. (2008). Prepare & practice for standardized tests: Language arts. Westminster, CA: Teacher Created Resources.
Powell, S. D., & Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (2001). How to prepare students for standardized tests. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Jasmine, J., & Taggart, M. K. (1997). How to prepare your students for standardized tests: Intermediate. Huntington Beach, CA: Teacher Created Materials.
Tileston, D. W., & Darling, S. K. (2008). Teaching strategies that prepare students for high- stakes tests. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Donohue, K., & Reddy, N. N. (2006). 180 days to successful writers: Lessons to prepare your students for standardized assessments and for life. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press.
Priestley, M., & Chang, M. L. (2008). Standardized test practice: 25 reproducible mini-tests that help students prepare for and succeed on standardized tests. New York: Scholastic.
Priestly, M. (2005). Charts, tables & graphs: 30 skill-building reproducible pages that prepare kids for standardized tests. New York: Scholastic Teaching Resources.
Longyear, M., & McGraw-Hill Book Company. (1983). The McGraw-Hill style manual: A concise guide for writers and editors. New York: McGraw-Hill.
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