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Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023

Taking Standardized Tests

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These critical tests tell us a lot about students and their schools.

Usually referred to be familiar acronyms, these regularly administered tests come with their own challenges.

What They Are

The exams feature consistent questions, administering conditions and procedures for scoring. Everything happens in a standard, pre-determined manner with the hope of getting a consistent result. Standardized testing has been part of the U.S. system of education since the 1800s, though its widespread use didn’t begin until the 1970s. National assessments followed in the ’80s.

Why We Take Them

Standardized tests are meant to fairly measure student achievement by asking certain questions under equal and monitored conditions. The results help form a universal standard not impacted by local schools or towns. It’s easier to evaluate progress when everyone takes the same test. Initiatives like Common Core and No Child Left Behind are based on these educational standards. Problematic districts and schools can also be identified early, so that changes can be made. These tests may also be part of a student’s adult life, so it’s best to begin familiarizing themselves early on. Those seeking a career in medicine, teaching, the law, engineering and many other fields must take part in a very similar certification process.

Familiarize Yourself

Before they begin study, have students familiarize themselves with how the exam will happen.

Determine how many sections are offered and the focus of each section. Find out how much time is given for the sections and for the overall test. Are they allowed to ask questions? What’s not allowed in the exam room? How will scoring be done, and when will the results be posted? Creating a framework of understanding about the process will help with the inevitable anxiety associated with these high-stakes tests.

Test Strategies

Adopting specific test taking strategies may help students with exams like the ACT, GRE and SAT, giving them a better chance to doing well in what can be a stressful situation. Test-specific workbooks and guides, and practice tests are often very useful. Encourage students to practice breathing and relaxation techniques to ward off anxiety. Discuss positive affirmations, rather than indulging in negative thoughts about testing poorly. They should get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy, nutritional breakfast on testing day. Encourage them to return to what was learned on practice tests and breathing exercises while taking the exam.

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