Preparing for standardized tests: strategies for success

As testing season begins, both parents and students may be feeling nervous. A few simple strategies can calm nerves, ensure preparation, and make for a successful testing experience.

Starting early on preparation is key to feeling calm and in control on test day and making sure you have a good grasp of all the content covered on the exam. While depending on the test, reviewing notes, texts and study guides can be helpful,  by far the most effective exam preparation strategy is to take practice exams. However, just taking exams is not enough! If you take exams but fail to review your missed questions and work through the correct solutions, you will learn very little. An experienced tutor can help you work through practice exams and go over difficult questions together.

Students should also review test taking strategies. Often, standardized tests require little outside knowledge and instead rely on student’s critical thinking skills. Most students are familiar with basic strategies like using the process of elimination to cut down answer choices, but may not realize how important test-taking skills are to scoring well. Working with a tutor can help students with skills like using context clues, identifying main ideas, making inferences, estimating and reading graphs, identifying tone, and using logic. It’s important to remain calm when faced with unfamiliar terms or concepts and stay focused on what you DO know. And remember, if you finish early, use the extra time to check your work!

Finally, your mindset is a big part of your success on any exam. Give yourself the best possible chance by maintaining a sensible sleep schedule and diet. Don’t try to cram a few days or especially the night before the exam; this is unlikely to help on any exam, and it’s particularly pointless for standardized tests, which primarily test cumulative knowledge and critical thinking skills. Above all, maintain a positive attitude. Working with a reassuring tutor can help you avoid the depression, anxiety, and negative thoughts and self-talk many students experience due to exam stress so that you can be calm and confident on exam day!