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How to Teach Test Prep

This year I’m teaching two classes of seventh grade honors English-language arts. I usually teach the reading intervention classes and the remedial English class to help “catch students up while they keep up” with grade-level instruction. It’s been awhile since I’ve taught such precocious twelve-year-olds as these honors students.

After our first unit test, the honor students were shocked at the results. Some 20% of the students failed their first grammar, vocabulary, spelling, reading strategies, and elements of plot exam. Of course I produced a nice study guide and plenty of review and I told the students that those who study will get A’s and B’s and those who don’t will get D’s and F’s. I also emailed parents to suggest that they help their gifted sons and daughters study. Yes, after the test I got quite a few parent emails asking if they should transfer their child out of such a “challenging” class.

You see these honors students have never had to study in their elementary classes. In fact, many of my honors students don’t know how to study. We so often assume that test study is just “doing it.” However, thinking a bit about it… we realize that there are quite a few tips about how to study for tests.

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

I added on a quick set of “how to study for and take tests” lessons to prepare my students for the second unit test. Yes, they did much better.

These lessons are part of my Essential Study Skills curriculum. Check out these FREE LESSONS here.

Get the Test Prep Skills FREE Resource:

I developed 40 lessons like these for regular classes, study skills electives, advocacy classes, advisory periods, opportunity classes, substitutes, and rainy day activities. You get the idea. Each of the 40 lessons has a focused goal-setting activity, a great one page teacher-directed lesson, and a personal reflection page.

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Essential Study Skills

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

The forty lessons in Essential Study Skills (eBook) will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Often, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because they don’t try hard enough, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable.

Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. Ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, advocacy/advisory, opportunity program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice.

Reading Study Skills

  1. Choosing and Reading the Right Books
  2. Reading Habits-The Bad and the Good
  3. Silent Reading Fluency and Speed Reading
  4. Interactive Reading
  5. Building Comprehension-The SCRIP Comprehension Strategies
  6. Inferences-Reading Between the Lines
  7. Marginal Annotations
  8. Reading Non-Fiction Strategies
  9. Skimming and Scanning

Writing Study Skills

  1. Parts of Speech
  2. Grammatical Sentence Openers
  3. Spelling Rules
  4. Punctuation Rules
  5. Writing Complex Sentences
  6. Writing Style Errors
  7. Essay Writing Rules
  8. Introductory Paragraphs
  9. Body Paragraphs
  10. Concluding Paragraphs

Listening/ Note-taking/Test-taking

  1. Active Listening with ED IS PC
  2. Note-taking
  3. Test Preparation
  4. Objective Test-taking Strategies
  5. Matching Test-taking Strategies
  6. Fill-in-the-Blank Test-taking Strategies
  7. Multiple Choice Test-taking Strategies

How to Get Organized and Study Effectively

  1. Study Environment and Time Management
  2. The Daily Review
  3. Grouping Memorization Technique
  4. Association Memorization Technique
  5. Linking Memorization Technique
  6. Catch Words Memorization Technique
  7. Catch Sentences Memorization Technique

Vocabulary Development

  1. Syllabication Rules 35. Greek and Latin Word Parts
  2. Context Clues

Motivation/ Goal-Setting/Attitude

  1. How to Get Motivated 38. How to Avoid Procrastination
  2. How to Set Goals
  3. Positive Mental Attitude

Essential Study Skills Preview

Critical Thinking Openers Toolkit Preview

Your students will greatly benefit from the 40 lessons in Essential Study Skills. 128 pages

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Essential Study Skills

From a child’s point of view, there are advantages and disadvantages to having a teacher as a parent. The time off over holidays and summer vacations certainly provides plenty of options for family activities. However, that additional time at home also means plenty of opportunities for learning and character development.

In our household, Dad was the teacher, and he had three sons. So this meant plenty of sports and outdoor adventures. This also meant that we were given a choice every summer: 4 hours of summer school each day at the nearby public school or 90 minutes of daily supervised instruction at home. It was not much of a choice. Each summer we chose the option that Dad affectionately labeled as Essential Study Skills.

Despite our relief at finally graduating from Dad’s Essential Study Skills once we got summer jobs or took community college classes during our high school years, we have to admit that we learned quite a few useful skills each summer. The study skills were especially helpful, and to this day, we don’t understand why these skills are not taught and re-taught to mastery during the regular school year by “regular” teachers.

Maybe these study skills are not introduced because teachers assume that most are simply common sense and do not require  instruction. Or, maybe each teacher thinks that “some other teacher” should or has already taught them. From our personal experiences, study skills need to be taught, not just caught.

Parents can use the time off over holidays and during summer vacations to teach the study skills that teachers “did not have the time” to teach during the school year. Here’s how to develop your own Essential Study Skills plan for each of your children.

-Find out what your child’s relative weaknesses are by giving brief diagnostic tests. Check out these free diagnostic tests in phonics, spelling, grammar, and mechanics, just to name a few. Design short lessons to address those weaknesses.

-Have your child read for 30 minutes a day in a book at his or her challenge level. Not sure how to help your child pick a book that will best develop the vocabulary and comprehension skills that your child needs to achieve optimal growth? Check out these helpful articles: How We Learn Vocabulary from Reading Part II and Interactive Reading: Making a Movie in Your Head.

-Have your child study Greek and Latin vocabulary game cards. Which word parts should they memorize? Check out this article.

-Have your child develop his or her writing style and build writing fluency by spending 30 minutes a day writing journals, thank-you notes, blogs, emails, stories, or essays, while using the techniques taught in this article: How to Improve Your Writing Style with Grammatical Sentence Openers.

-Buy this fantastic self-guided resource: Essential Study SkillsThe forty lessons in Essential Study Skills (eBook) will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Often, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because they don’t try hard enough, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable.

Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. Ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, advocacy/advisory, opportunity program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice.

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

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Learn How to Study

Memory research tells us that we remember up to 70% of new information if that information is practiced withing 24 hours. If we don’t reinforce what has been learned soon after learning, we rapidly forget what has been taught. We need to end the “forgetting cycle for your child (or your students).” Here’s how to help your child learn how to study.

Review Daily Class Work and Workplace Tasks

Every day after school or work, teach your child (or students) to complete a ten-minute review of any notes, worksheets, reports, memos,and assignments that you worked on in that day. This review interrupts the “forgetting cycle” and will help you prepare in advance for tests, meetings, or discussion.

Memory research tells us that people remember up to 70% of new information only if that information is practiced and placed into the long-term memory within the first 24 hours after first learning that information. The level of retention drops to only 10% after one week. So, build in to your daily routine a review time soon after school or at the end of work every day. A little bit of review, rehearsal, and study with a Daily Review will actually save you time studying or preparing for the night before the test or business presentation.

Review Daily Class Work and Workplace Tasks

Purchase a spiral-bound notebook for each school subject. Label each notebook, according to the subject. Write the date of your Daily Review at the top of page and list the key areas of focus for that subject or class on that day. Write possible test questions, discussion points, questions for further research,  and memory tricks to remember key ideas and details for the most important content learned that day on small sticky notes and arrange them on the Daily Review page. A few nights before an upcoming test or business meeting, you can transfer the sticky notes to a study sheet and use them to create a practice test or presentation. Also, don’t forget sticky notes that you used to take marginal annotations on worksheets, articles, and from your textbook, articles, memos, or reports.

A Few Tips for Writing Memorable Sticky Notes

1. People remember information best when that information is organized in a structured manner.

Tip: Organize your sticky notes into distinctly memorable patterns. Try general to specific, alphabetical, and chronological patterns. Color code categories with different color stickies. For example, if you are studying the explorers you could use blue for people, yellow for their countries, green for their areas of exploration, and pink for their accomplishments.

2.  People remember information that is connected to visual imagery.

Tip: Draw out quick graphic or picture representations of key ideas on your stickies.

3. People remember events and information that are made exciting, interesting, or even embarrassing.

Tip: Personalize what you are trying to remember to keep things more memorable on your stickies. Relate the information that you want to remember to events and people in your own life.

Check out the author’s Essential Study Skills learn more helpful study skills.

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How to Take Notes

Taking effective notes can certainly improve comprehension of the information presented in class or found in textbooks. Note-taking can also help organize for test study. However, many students have never learned how to take notes effectively. Indeed, many teachers seem to think that note-taking is a skill learned only by osmosis, and not by direct instruction. A few effective note-taking strategies will help remedy this misconception and enable teachers to teach how to take notes to their students.

Notes are summaries of the main ideas and key details that the teacher wants you to understand and remember. Effective note-taking organizes these summaries so that they can easily be reviewed and practiced. Here are a few key ingredients to effective note-taking:

1. Listen to or read the complete thought. Don’t write something down until you understand it.

2. Learn the signals that your teacher and textbook use to stress main ideas and key details. Some of these signals may be the following:

  • repeating key points
  • raising the voice to emphasize key points
  • spelling key terms
  • speaking slowly
  • writing key points down
  • using phrases such as “key to” “most importantly” “main idea” “in conclusion”
  • using transition words such as “first” “next” “finally”

3. Don’t write down everything that the teacher or textbook says. Be selective. If you already know it, don’t write it down.

4. Use your own “shorthand” symbols and abbreviations. Think text messaging!

5. Ask questions about main ideas and key details that you don’t understand.

6. Use a note-taking organizational pattern that fits with the information being presented. A one-size-fits-all note-taking format is not the best approach. Use different formats for different organizational patterns and purposes.

Note-taking Formats

All note-taking formats order information summaries into main ideas, major details, and support details. Each format has advantages and disadvantages depending upon its application and organizational pattern. It is important to know how to use all three of the formats and when each is appropriate. The three most common note-taking formats include formal outline, webbing, and Cornell notes.

Formal Outline notes use Roman numerals for main ideas, capital letters for major details, Arabic numerals (1,2,3) for minor details, and even lower case letters for examples. This style of note-taking is well-organized for test study and works well with linear organizational patterns such as chronological, cause-effect, and reasons-for presentations. This style does not fit spatial organizational patterns such as comparison-contrast, relational hierarchies, or recursive (cyclical) patterns.

Webbing is a note-taking style that uses labeled geometric shapes to show relationships between main ideas, major details, and minor details. Usually, the main idea begins the webbing process as a geometric shape in the middle of the notepaper and webs off into different directions for different ideas. Different ideas in outlying webs can be connected to other webs to show relationships. This style of note-taking is not conducive to study because it is messy. However, it does show spatial relationships such as comparison-contrast, relational hierarchies, or recursive (cyclical) patterns that the Formal Outline method can not. Webbing is a wonderful form of brainstorming for essays and narratives.

Cornell Notes is a linear note-taking style that avoids some of the hierarchical organization of the Formal Outline method. It does not use the symbols, but relies on categorization to organize main ideas and supporting details. The notepaper is divided into two columns. The left side serves to list main ideas or ask questions. The right side provides the support details or answers to the questions posed. At the bottom of the notepaper is a horizontal row reserved for personal comments, questions, and analysis.

For more practical teaching strategy tips and free teaching resources, please visit penningtonpublishing.com.

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. The forty lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. em>Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Teachers may post the program on class websites. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses.

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

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Five Objective Test Tips

Answering objective test problems isn’t simply a matter of knowing the answers. Although knowing the answers certainly does help! Establishing an approach to answering objective test problems will help the test-taker best problem-solve and access information reviewed during test study. Having such an approach to every test problem will reduce test anxiety and will also assist in effective time management while completing the exam.

Here is the best approach to answering objective test problems:

1. Read each question or test problem twice before looking at the answers. However, only re-read the question stem, not the answer choices. The question stem is bolded or separated from the answer responses in a multiple-choice or matching section. It is easy to miss a key word if you only read the question or test problem just once.

2. Be alert for certain key words in the test problem and circle these, if permitted. Key words include “absolute words” such as the following:

-not, never, always, completely

and “exception words” such as the following:

-frequently, sometimes, mostly, often, almost, may, can.

3. Try to predict the correct answer before you look at the choices offered. This will provide a mind-set for evaluating the answer choices before you begin to answer. This process also helps to unlock your prior knowledge about the subject gained from test study and life experience.

4. Read all answer choices before selecting an answer. Test-takers frequently say that this strategy helps eliminate rushing though a test and answering impulsively. If failing to read all of the answer choices is a compulsive problem, try reading the answer choices in reverse. Reading bottom to top does not take any more time.

5. Look for the wrong answers first, not the right ones. Using the process of elimination will help you narrow down the answer choices. Your guessing odds are much better with each wrong answer eliminated. Also, it is easier to make a decision between fewer choices than many. After all, isn’t it easier to choose among three ice-cream flavors rather than among thirty-one flavors? Finally, make sure to guess, if not sure of your answer choice.

Check out these five FREE test prep resources from the author’s Essential Study Skills curriculum:

Get the Test Prep Skills FREE Resource:

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. The forty lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. em>Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Teachers may post the program on class websites. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses.

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

 

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How to Take Tests

Taking tests can be very stressful experiences. The key to reducing stress and ensuring test success is to develop and follow a test-taking plan. Following a well-designed plan will relax the test-taker, manage time appropriately, and maximize the overall test score.

Let’s walk through how to make that test plan. When your teacher passes out the test, first write down your full name and any additional information required by the teacher. Do not postpone these tasks until later when time constraints may make you forget. Then, take a deep breath and slowly exhale while you practice a little positive “self-talk.” Remind yourself that you have prepared for the exam as much as was possible and that you are excited about the challenge of showing off your knowledge and test study.

Then, skim though the entire test. Read each set of directions, noting what kinds of questions are asked and where. Note how many points can be earned for each section. Divide up the amount of time that you have been allotted for the whole test among the different test sections, based upon how many points each section is worth. For example, don’t spend half of your valuable test-taking time on an essay, if the essay is worth only ten percent of the total points. Write down these allocated time amounts next to the directions for each section in the margins and use these to pace yourself on the test.

Next, write down any memory tricks or essay pre-writes developed from test study in the margins or on scratch paper, if the teacher permits. Get all of the memorized information down on paper in concise form before you begin the test. This will free up your mind to focus on each test problem without thinking about what needs to remembered later on the test.

Decide the order in which you want to complete the test. Usually, it is better to begin an essay after completing the rest of the test. Start with the test sections that will produce the most amount of points. Save the sections that produce fewer points until later.

Test study certainly is vitally important to achieve good test results. However, developing a test plan once the test is passed out is a frequently over-looked component of test success. After all, the best laid plans produce the best results.

Check out these five FREE test prep resources from the author’s Essential Study Skills curriculum:

Get the Test Prep Skills FREE Resource:

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. The forty lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. em>Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Teachers may post the program on class websites. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses.

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

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Taking True-False Tests

When asked, students often say that they prefer true-false tests. However, the true-false format makes it very difficult to earn a high test score. Learning how to maximize scores on true-false tests will significantly increase test scores. True-false sections remain the staple of many teacher-constructed tests. Here are the tips to “ace” any true-false section on your next test.

1. Read the true-false statement twice before choosing an answer. Test-takers frequently say that this strategy helps eliminate rushing though a test and answering impulsively.

2. True-false tests can be very tricky. Look first at the statement as being true, then if any part of that statement is false, then the whole statement must be false.

3. True-false tests tend to have slightly more true statements than false. Therefore, if you must guess, guess “true.”

4. The longer the true-false statement, the greater is the chance that it is false because it only takes one part of the statement to be false to make the whole statement false.

Example

The moon orbits an average of 240,000 miles away from the earth, has craters and mountains, and is made of cheese.

5. Statements that show cause-effect tend to be false, unless an Exception Word is used. Words or phrases such as the following:

Examples

  • because
  • caused
  • resulted in
  • is the reason that

indicate cause-effect relationships.

Example

Only one U.S. president has been elected four times, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and this caused financial chaos.

6. Extreme statements tend to be false.

Example

Japanese automobiles are all more reliable and cost less than American automobiles.

7. If an Absolute Word such as the following:

  • all
  • only
  • every
  • completely
  • none
  • always
  • never
  • best
  • worst
  • absolutely

is found in an answer choice, the answer choice tends to be false because these words do not allow for exceptions.

8. If an Exception Word such as the following:

  • some
  • most
  • sometimes,
  • frequently
  • often, usually
  • maybe
  • many
  • generally
  • partially

is found in an answer choice, the answer choice tends to be true because these words do allow for exceptions.

9. Finally, make sure to guess, if not sure of your answer choice.
Check out these five FREE test prep resources from the author’s Essential Study Skills curriculum:

Get the Test Prep Skills FREE Resource:

The author’s Essential Study Skills is the study skill curriculum that teaches what students need to know to succeed and thrive in schoolOften, the reason why students fail to achieve their academic potential is not because of laziness or lack of effort, but because they have never learned the basic study skills necessary for success. The forty lessons in Essential Study Skills will teach your students to “work smarter, not harder.” Students who master these skills will spend less time, and accomplish more during homework and study time. Their test study will be more productive and they will get better grades. Reading comprehension and vocabulary will improve. Their writing will make more sense and essays will be easier to plan and complete. They will memorize better and forget less. Their schoolwork will seem easier and will be much more enjoyable. Lastly, students will feel better about themselves as learners and will be more motivated to succeed. em>Essential Study Skills is the ideal curriculum for study skill, life skill, Advocacy/Advisory, Opportunity Program classes. The easy-to-follow lesson format of 1. Personal Assessment 2. Study Skill Tips and 3. Reflection is ideal for self-guided learning and practice. Teachers may post the program on class websites. Contact the publisher for affordable site licenses.

Pennington Publishing's Essential Study Skills

Essential Study Skills

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