Test-Taking Strategies: How to Be Stellar, Not Standard

Standardized tests are sometimes considered a necessary evil, but they are always there like taxes. While it's requisite to prepare your students by ensuring they master the content, it's also very important to model good behaviors and work habits for them. Advisory Board member, Amber, takes testing to task by suggesting some easy, but often forgotten, reminders to make your students as ready as possible when test day comes.

Updated on: January 25, 2021

Strategies for overcoming standard testing anxiety

When getting ready for testing season, there is more to the preparation process than test-taking skill and drill or prescribed statewide test practices. Students prepare for testing in a more holistic way when they look deeper inward to better equip themselves for testing success. This can be done through managing test anxiety; setting goals; staying healthy and positive; and not procrastinating. Let’s look at these personal skill preparations to see how students can stay ready for their official test day, and become more stellar, instead of “standard.”

Managing Test Anxiety

managing testing anxiety

Anxiety is a real thing when people are under stress. So, how can students stay calm, cool, and collected to better manage their testing fears? One way is to focus on breathing. When people get anxious, they tend to breathe at a faster rate, which can create anxiety. By focusing on breathing at a deep, deliberate rate, it can make people calm down and in turn, more relaxed. Another way to keep anxiety low is for students to change their mindset from feeling scared to excited. We can teach students that testing is nothing to fear, but instead to embrace the butterflies. Testing is an opportunity for students to show what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown, and they should feel proud and confident! Click here for more testing anxiety resources.

Setting Goals

teen setting goals

It is hard to accomplish tasks, such as studying, without end test goals in mind but one way to accomplish this is through the SMART goal technique. The questions to ask are: 1) How is my goal “specific” to the overall testing need?; 2) How will the goal be “measured” over time to show progress?; 3) Is the goal realistic and “achievable”?; 4) Does the goal seem “relevant” to the overall testing need?; and 5) Will the goal be achieved in a “timely” manner? The SMART goal technique allows students to set up a plan of action to make sure their testing objectives are both measurable and accomplished.

Staying Healthy

child drinking water

In order to do well on test day, it is important to be conscious of what students eat and drink beforehand. This requires talking to students about consciously eating a well-balanced meal so they have all the energy needed to accomplish their testing goals. Some foods and drinks, especially sugary ones, are not the best types of food to eat before a test; these may make students feel energized at first—but that energy is fleeting and will eventually plummet over time and cause fatigue. It is best to eat vegetables, fruits and proteins, and drink plenty of water to ensure the best energy and hydration for testing success.

Keeping a Positive Attitude

kid with a can-do attitude

Staying positive is a great way for students to stay motivated for testing success. Two ways to stay positive are to listen to instrumental music and challenge the cycle of negative thinking. Instrumental music, especially if upbeat, can make people feel happier and more energized to accomplish tasks. Research has shown that music increases endorphins, which make you feel happier and more positive. Challenge students’ negative thinking by having them focus on the positive, the preparation process, and their SMART goals.

Say No to Procrastinating

kid procrastinating watching TV

It’s important to remember that student timeliness and preparedness will only help accomplish testing tasks. Test procrastination creates an opportunity for stress, fear, and anxiety to manifest—so if possible (and not dictated by your state or district), schedule testing sooner rather than later. Have students take time out of their busy schedules to look at testing dates, and plan study time around them. By spending at least 30 minutes a day preparing and studying for an upcoming test, it will help keep stress levels low and confidence levels high.

loading gif