The Complete Test Day Success Guide
It’s officially spring, which means high-stakes tests are around the corner. We know educators across the United States have already spent weeks preparing, practicing, and planning. As the tests get closer, telling yourself not to get overwhelmed is easier said than done, which is why we’ve created a guide full of our best resources and tips to help you feel at ease the week of testing.
Before the Test
Make Sure Families are Prepared
Remember, not all families experienced high-stakes exams in grade school, and parents may not even realize when they are happening this school year. Don’t leave it up to your students to explain to their grownups the importance of standardized tests. Keep families in the know, ease their anxieties, and make sure students are getting support at home by sending them these helpful resources:
- Elementary High-Stakes Test Taking Checklist
- Secondary High-Stakes Test Taking Checklist
- 8 Tips for Parents to Help Your Child Prepare for High-Stakes Tests
- Your Students and Exams: A Survival Guide for Families
Make Sure You are Prepared
You’ve been working hard to make sure students are as ready as possible for test day. It’s one of the most stressful times of the year for teachers. We know you’re probably focused on helping your students feel prepared, but don’t forget about yourself! If you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk; make sure you get a good night’s rest and check out these resources that’ll hopefully save you some sleep deprivation:
- The Power of Positive Intent
- 6 Self-Care Tips for Educators
- How 7 Teachers Help Their Classes Prepare for State Assessments
- 11 Virtual Ideas to Build a Support Network for Teachers
If you still have a few weeks or days before the big day, check out our ultimate guide on preparing for high-stakes testing. It’s full of great tips for last-minute practice, leveraging data, and more.
During the Test
Test day is finally here! Before you’re giving yourself the classic and necessary, “You’re the greatest teacher that has ever lived!” pep-talk, check out these awesome tips and resources that will make the day less stressful overall.
Celebrate Good Times
We know you’re excited that test day is here (and that it’s almost over). Get your kids on your level before the tests get passed out with these unique pre-test ideas:
- Create a pump-up playlist – Everyone loves to dance and Spotify has bunch of user-created playlists for pre-test hype. We know you’ll get to class early to make sure everything is perfectly prepared, so as kids are walking into class blast some sweet tunes. It’ll wake them up and put them in a great mood. Our suggestions? I Will Survive, Eye of the Tiger, and of course the classic Old Town Road.
- Snacks on snacks on snacks – It’s extremely important that kids get a good breakfast before test day. In a perfect world, every child will have eaten a full breakfast, but that isn’t always the case. It’s never a bad idea to have some granola bars, dried fruits, or other filling snacks (all individually packaged, of course!) on hand at your testing site, and to let students know they can come by and grab one before the test starts. Don’t let a stomach growl throw your students off their game.
- No Cell Phone Zone – No doubt when your students find out they have to turn it off for the day (even though you’ve told them this multiple times) they will protest. To help ease the separation, make the temporary cell phone ban a fun part of your pre-test ritual. Give kids five minutes to find their favorite testing day meme and share it with their neighbor, or have them take “before” selfies as they’re shutting off their phones. Once everyone is done with their tests, you can give the green light to turn phones on again by encouraging everyone to take their “after” selfie. It’s a lighthearted way to ease tension, and helps you make sure all the phones are going off.
How many times have you gone to class on test day feeling great, only to arrive in your classroom to your kids looking nervous or saying they feel unprepared? Even if you’ve jammed out to pump up music and laughed at memes, test anxiety is real. So how do you take the fear out of testing day? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
- How Teachers Can Help Students Cope with Test Anxiety
- Helping Students Overcome “All or Nothing” Thinking to Focus on Learning
- [High Stakes Testing] Using Classroom Culture, Test-Taking Skills, and Mindfulness to Overcome Test Season Stress
Take Breaks & Keep Students Engaged
Standardized tests can be brutal as the day goes on. Luckily, we take breaks. Now that students are in the swing of things, we don’t want to disrupt their concentration with loud music or videos on the internet, so look at these fun resources that’ll keep those thinking caps on.
- [Student Engagement] 5 Strategies to Make Brain Breaks Work in the Classroom
- [Student Engagement] 4 Brain Breaks for the Virtual Classroom
Let’s be real, even with breaks it’s hard for students to stay focused, engaged, and trying their best when they’re answering difficult questions all day. It’s been said that humans have attention spans worse than goldfish, after all. Check out these educator tips for fighting assessment fatigue, or quickly let your students know that they’re doing a great job with Edmentum’s gratitude cards.
After the Test
You’ve almost made it! Congratulations!
For the Early Birds
We know it’s hard for teachers to sit back and quietly monitor students while they finish testing, so what can you do for the kids who finish early? Don’t expect them to just sit there quietly. Give them some fun activities that will keep them from being a distraction to other students. We suggest creating crossword puzzles for students, making sure that your classroom library is stacked, have scratch paper for doodling, or have some fun writing prompts available that will let their imaginations take off.
The Final Countdown
Once your students have handed in their exams, take a deep breath, and let your students know how proud you are of them. You all worked hard leading up to today! Recognize their accomplishments with some of our favorite ways to celebrate:
- Present Before and After Photos – as we mentioned earlier, a fun way to get kids to put their phones away for the day is to have them take a before photo right before they turn them off. Have them email you those photos and put them into PowerPoint to review later.
- Have a Picnic – if weather permits, take your celebration outside and serve up some punny “hot dog, the test is over” hot dogs! Ice cream is always a good option, too. Or even scheduling a simple class lunch period outside instead of in the cafeteria. Who doesn’t love a good outside day?
- Write Break-Up Letters – Every student has a topic or two that they battled with leading up to test day (looking at you fractions…) they are probably glad to be done with for the year. For a part-reflection, part-fun activity, have them write respectful break up letters to their state tests, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before style. What lesson will they never forget? What are they grateful to leave behind? Don’t forget to really commit to the bit by playing some break-up music.
- Start Something New – Once state exams are over, get a fresh start and end the school year on a high note. Start a new project that is fun and tailored to the interests of your students, or look into starting a genius hour. Whether that’s a video project, a research paper, or something else entirely, it’ll be refreshing to switch gears.
State testing can be a whirlwind for even the most seasoned educator. Good luck to all the teachers and students out there! We’re rooting for you!
This post was originally published March 2020 and has been updated.