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I have decided to share the tips I teach my students to help with Standardized tests:

1. Read the Question First: Often with long passages, students waste time because they read the passage, then the questions, and then have to go back through the passage to try to find the answer to the question. By reading the question first, they know what they’re looking for.

2. Number or Underline Key Words in the Question; Identify the steps you are being asked to cover: Many of my students lose points because they only answer half of the question. This teaches them to identify what they are being asked and to make sure they answer it.

3. Take your time and do your best until you have one minute left. Then, guess C: Too many students get freaked out about the time limit, so they rush. They finish with a long time to spare and don’t recheck their answers. Consequently, they miss a lot. I teach my students to tell themselves they will do their absolute best until they only have a minute to go. Then, they will guess on the remaining questions. By doing this, they will actually finish on time (most of the time), and will have done their best instead of rushing.

4. Use Process of Elimination: Every set of answers usually contains the same options–the right answer, the almost right answer, the opposite of the right answer, and one that is way off base. Just knowing that, you can easily eliminate one if not two options. I explain to my students if they just randomly guess, they have a 1 in 4 chance of getting the right answer, or 25%. By eliminating just one option, they improve their chances to 1 in 3 or 33%. Their odds go up 8% just by eliminating the “throw-away” answer. If they can eliminate 2 answers, their odds have improved another 17%.

5. Predict what goes in the blank, then look to see if it’s in the answer options: When you’re nervous, you can talk yourself into any answer being the right one. By picking an answer before you look at the choices they give, it’s easy to find the right answer and not get confused.

6. Follow the 5 point outline on Essays:

I. Introduction
II. First Point
III. Second Point
IV. Third Point
V. Conclusion

*I also show them how the writing prompt gives them their three points in the “Be sure to Include” Section.

7. Indent Every Point, even if it’s only one sentence: On our standardized test, the highest a student can get with one big paragraph is a 2/6. Just by adding indentions, even if their paragraphs are only one sentence, they raise their score to at least a 3/6.

8. The Pep talk: I give my students 2 different pep talks prior to ISTEP:

A. Facing the Giants: I show Scene 12, otherwise known as “The Death Crawl.” In the movie, a football coach has a player do the death crawl blindfolded. I discuss the fact that often, we as teachers feel like the coach in this movie, walking beside them saying, “Come on, you can do it. Come on!” I explain that for some of them, failing is all they think they’re capable of, and they’ve never really tried. I charge them to give it their best shot this year and see what they can do.

B. Plant through the rock: I have a weed I pulled out of my flower bed that had grown through a rock. I talk to them about overcoming obstacles and that while it is hard, it is possible, if they’ll be persistent.

My principal recently told me that the 8th grade (My class) was the only one in our building that had shown consistent improvement on the ISTEP. Hopefully, these tips will help you show improvement too.

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