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Home Education School 10 Test-Taking Tips

10 Test-Taking Tips

Even after plenty of preparation and practice, students – and their scores – can benefit from basic test-taking strategies and stress reduction techniques

“There is a lot of anxiety with taking the MSA,” says Justin Serrano, president of SCORE! Educational Centers, Inc., a Kaplan Inc. subsidiary that provides after-school learning programs and testing workshops. “By following some simple strategies, both students and their parentscan be fully prepared for successon test day.”

The following tips from educational experts at SCORE! can help Maryland parents prepare their children for the MSA and other future tests.

Tip #1:  Read all directions carefully. Oftentimes in test-taking environments, the adrenaline gets pumping and students read through instructions too quickly. Taking the extra time to slow down and make sure they understand the question not only saves them from making wrong answers, but also saves time in the long run. A good guideline is to read each written directive at least twice.

Tip #2:
Underline key words in the directions. This is a good strategy for kids in fifth grade or higher but at younger grade levels, kids might get too bogged down in actually identifying the words and miss the greater question. Good key words to remember are: compare, contrast, define and explain.

Tip #3: Listen attentively to the teacher or proctor. It’s very easy for your child to let anxiety and adrenaline take over when he is sitting in the room with the test in front of him, waiting for the teacher to start the exam. Talk to your child about taking a deep breath and not getting distracted from the directions the teacher might be giving. Otherwise, he might miss some very important information.

Tip #4: Ask for clarification if the directions are confusing. Your child’s teacher is there to help explain unclear directions, and he will tell your child if a question is asking for too much information. It is always better for your child to ask and be told by the teacher that they can’t answer the question than not to ask at all.

Tip #5: Learn how to skim. This is most relevant for students in older grades as they will be reading longer passages. Teach your kids how to skim through a passage quickly to get the basic idea and then read the questions that correspond with that passage. Then, when they go back into the paragraph, they’ll know what information they need to be
looking for.

Tip #6:
Practice the process of elimination. A portion of the MSA is multiple choice, so knowing how to eliminate wrong answers will help your child make an educated guess, when necessary. Narrowing down four options to two doubles the likelihood of choosing a correct answer.

Tip #7:
Manage time well. Good time management is critical to good test taking. It doesn’t matter if your child is in third grade or graduate school, no one wants to run out of time on a test. Every question gets equal weight, so it is in your child’s best interest to skip questions that are particularly difficult and save them for the end. And, if your child finishes early, answers should be double checked.

Tip #8: Answer some easy questions first. By attacking a few easy questions right off the bat, your child will build confidence and manage her time well. Starting off an important test with the right attitude can make all the difference.

Tip #9: It’s OK to take a break. Time management is important, but not if it means that your child is going to burn himself out before the end of the test. If your child says that tests feel overwhelming and exhausting, tell him that it’s OK to put his pencil down and close his eyes, stare out the window for a moment or just take a few deep breaths.

Tip #10:
Try some practice questions. Kids always perform better when they are more comfortable with the content and format of a test.

Find more test-taking tips and sample test questions on the Maryland State Department of Education website:

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