Tips and Tricks to Improve Classroom Test Scores

Oct 26, 2023
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To help educators ensure their students are as prepared as possible for taking a test in their classroom, we’ve assembled a list of 5 day-of-testing tips, 4 assessment preparation best practices, and a DOK levels resource. Be sure to read through these before your next planned test and try them out with your students to see if their test scores improve.

Five Day-of-Testing Tips

Believe it or not, there are things you can do the day of the test to prepare your students for high-stakes exams. Below are a few ways to improve test scores.

1. Try to keep anxiety to a minimum

High-stakes testing can be stressful for everyone—teachers, administrators, parents, and students. And though some anxiety can be helpful, making us feel the urgency to prepare, it can turn detrimental quickly, undermining the preparation you have done. So, try to keep the environment loose and fun while still presenting the importance of the test. 

Take a cue from these third graders signing a rendition of “Test Me, Maybe” about their upcoming state exam.

2. Have your students use our test-taking checklist

Test taking is a skill, and knowing how to correctly take a test can improve test scores dramatically. That is why we created our test-taking checklist. View our elementary version here and our secondary version here to help your students ensure they’re prepared.

3. Look into seated stretching

Have you ever sat at your classroom desks? If you have, you know that stretching can offer some serious relief to tired students. Spend some time researching effective stretching while seated, like this video from the Mayo Clinic, and then share the techniques with your kids. 

Not only will they thank you at the end of testing week, but they will also thank you with better focus and (hopefully) improved test scores.

4. Create a culture of positivity before the test

As Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t—you’re right.” Start getting the kids thinking about what will happen when they meet their testing goals. Perhaps squeeze in a quick writing assignment asking the kids to picture themselves in honors classes next year/graduating/going to college/having a cool job. 

The mind is a powerful weapon and has a unique gift for making things happen that don’t seem possible. These little activities can work wonders to improve students’ self-esteem and confidence.

5. Add “catering manager” to your resume

It may seem outside of your responsibility, but a lot of research has been done on the effects of food (specifically, the lack) and test performance. You will want to make sure your students are well fed before testing starts every day. In low socioeconomic status schools and neighborhoods, that might mean stocking up on granola bars and other snacks before testing. 

In one district, the local McDonald’s restaurants offered a free breakfast for kids on test days to ensure their brains were prepared to work. Look into offers like that, and make sure the kids know about them.

4 Assessment-Preparation Best Practices to Improve Test Scores

Based on a recent survey of teachers, we’ve put together four assessment-preparation tips to help educators successfully prepare students for assessments.

1. Review and practice

Many teachers find holding review sessions, issuing practice tests, and teaching test-taking skills to be the most effective means of assessment preparation. Practice tests are frequently used because well-designed practice tests support learning, serve as a review, and build students’ test-taking skills. 

Additionally, periodic benchmark assessments can be a good predictor of student performance on state assessments. Teachers can use the results of the benchmark assessments diagnostically to guide their instruction.

2. Differentiate instruction

Small-group instruction, peer tutoring, and web-based learning programs are some of the most popular strategies teachers use to prepare students with diverse learning needs for testing. Small-group instruction enables teachers to focus on the particular needs of the group. 

Peer tutoring benefits both students because one student gets extra help, while the tutor gets to develop skills that reinforce learning. Web-based programs allow teachers to focus on specific content for a group or individuals to help prepare them for assessments.

3. Engage and motivate

Teachers report that interactive content, such as games and competitions, helps engage and motivate students. Additionally, enabling students to monitor their own progress keeps them involved in their learning and makes them feel successful as they watch their individual results improve.

4. Partner with parents

Communicating with parents on a regular basis is an integral part of engaging them in their child’s success in testing. Teachers reported that sending home notes with practice materials for parents to work through with their child helps to keep parents involved. Teachers also use other tools, such as email and websites, to communicate with parents. 

These tools give parents visibility into their child’s progress and convey ways in which they can help their child improve at home.

Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Resource

Most high-stakes exams are requiring students to demonstrate a deeper level of knowledge. Below is a resource for deepening your understanding of DOK.

Bonus resource

10 technology-enhanced item types being implemented on 21st century exams

Interested in learning how to make test day smooth and stress-free for your students? Check out our Complete Test Day Success Guide. Find practical tips and resources to help you and your students prepare before, during, and after high-stakes tests, ensuring a successful and calm testing experience.

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