Standardized testing plays a major role in every stage of education, and in some cases, standardized testing can make or break you. You need to score well on standardized tests to get into college and grad school, and after that, you need to score well on standardized tests to enter the workforce. In many states, high stakes tests begin as early as the 5th grade, and they bring with them a lot of pressure. There are a few things that you can do before the big test to help calm your nerves before getting your brain focused on the task:
There is a wealth of testing practice available that can help you prepare for any high stakes tests, including tutoring agencies, online practice tests, and personal tutors. Utilizing one of these programs will get you the repetition and practice you need for the big day. Just like anything in life, practice makes perfect, and if you want to perfect that score, you need consistent practice.
Reading to education is like weightlifting to football. The more you read, the stronger your brain becomes. High stakes standardized tests require complex thinking, and the brain needs to be exercised in order to carry out that task. Reading will give the brain the exercise it needs to think through challenging questions.
Pay Attention to Vocabulary
A strong vocabulary is crucial to passing high stakes test. Be it the need for domain specific vocabulary, jargon related to a field, or simply vocabulary to sound intelligent, you need to pay close attention to the words that those around you use. One way to do this is to listen to the words used in pop culture or in the media. News reports are chockfull of great words that act as grace notes — the exact right word. Begin to ask yourself, “What connotation did the word carry to make it the right word?” You will begin to see the nuances in language, and it will help you tremendously when it comes to taking those high stakes standardized tests.
Practice Reading Questions Carefully
One thing that many people struggle with when it comes to standardized tests is question reading. Many people begin to read the question and then skim through the rest assuming they know what the question was asking. If you catch yourself doing this, keep this in mind: Test takers know you do this, so they write questions to catch people who do this. Take your time, read the question fully, and then answer the question. If you know you are a person who skims and then responds, practice reading test questions so that you can train your brain to slow down.
Do not spend too much time stressing over one question. Time is valuable when it comes to high stakes standardized tests, so if you have to move on, do so. If you spend too much time stressing over one answer, you could run out of time and miss questions you could have easily answered. Move on and come back.