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Test Preparation
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Preparing your students to pass your state's standardized proficiency tests (as well as college entrance examinations) is a fundamental part of your job as a teacher. Contrary to popular belief, there are interesting, educational, and fun ways to make certain that your students pass these tests. Teaching your kids test-taking skills and strategies will not only help them on standardized tests, but will improve their performance in your classroom and in post-secondary education settings.
Keep in mind that even the most brilliant students can sometimes "goof" or have a "brain freeze" on a test. Most commonly, this happens because the student does not understand "what the question wants." We have seen intelligent students who know material inside and out bomb on a test because they are unsure of the difference between "describe" and "explain," or because they do not realize that writing two pages of essay does not matter if all parts of the question are not addressed.
Furthermore, a lot of educators make the mistake that "preparing for the big test" is something to be done the week prior to the test. This is simply not true. Students do not learn best through crash courses. Students will be best prepared for big exams if the format and content of these exams is implemented in your classroom on a regular basis.
Most states release copies of their tests, with answers, when tests results are released. These are usually available online (e.g., Ohio Graduation Test). But how can you use these earlier tests if the state test changes every year?
The test changes every year, like fashion. One year, short skirts may be fashionable, and the next year, long skirts will be fashionable. But the design of a basic skirt stays pretty much the same. If a person can sew a short skirt, a person can sew a long skirt. Tests are the same. If your students can do well on last year's test, they can do well on this year's test. Why is this?
Tests stay the same in critical ways. Print up copies of your state's tests from the past several years and do a side-by-side comparison.
For one, the content generally remains the same. Look at your state's tests–do certain essay topics keep reappearing? In Ohio, the OGT (Ohio Graduation Test) has a question related to the 19th Amendment every year. This should tell you that you need to focus on the 19th Amendment in your teaching. Look for other topics to continue reappearing, and be sure to cover these topics thoroughly in your class.
The format stays the same. There is typically a mixture of essay, multiple-choice, and short-answer questions. Be positive that your students can answer each type of question.
The same action verbs appear year after year in essay questions. Look at the expected question responses for these action verbs. Do the "best answers" for "compare and contrast" questions always contain at least two facts which are similar and two that are different? Your students need to know what is expected of them when they are given a "compare and contrast" question.

Implement state test questions into your daily teaching and chapter/unit tests and semester exams.

Daily journal (bell work) questions can be pulled from state tests related to the course topic currently being studied. You don't need to invest in an expensive printed package to do this–simply copy a question from the test and put it on the board. (This website offers test- and topic-related bell work sheets which can be displayed on a SmartBoard or printed on transparencies. These materials are located under the subject headings.)

When preparing a chapter or unit test, look for related questions on state exams. Insert these related questions into your own tests.
Following this advice will do two things. It will familiarize your students with standardized test questions without wasting valuable class time going over the state test for the purpose of going over the state test. Without your students realizing what you are doing, you will be able to evaluate their performance on state questions (e.g., "The kids are doing great on essay questions but they can't seem to grasp the graphs...I'll have to do more graphs with them in class").
Create a semester exam from state test questions. Print it to look like your state test. You will have given your students a "dry run" at the state test in December or January.  We have free quiz games and practice tests available here.
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