Working Class




Test Taking Strategies


The More You Put Into It

The More You Get Out of It


If it's raining soup, don't go outside with a fork!


Think Alouds and modeling, performed on a regular basis throughout the school year, are two key strategies which inform test-taking analysis lessons. By using these approaches, teachers can demonstrate how to analyze reading passages, as well as the test questions that follow, rather than just practicing them. This is important if the students are to form strategies that help them recognize pertinent information as well as understand what is required, response-wise, by the question.

For the purpose of this monologue, I chose to use an overhead to show a typical test taking item: a reading selection followed by multiple choice questions. My objective was to teach the students to peruse and analyze the format, the illustrations, the actual reading passage, and the questions that followed, in order to make the content, as well as the strategy more transparent.

To begin, I would say “If you are asked to read a short selection and then respond to multiple choice questions about it, first note the title, then study the picture and finally determine the length of the passage.”

We would subsequently do this as a class. I would continue, “Next, read the questions at the end of the selection and scan the possible answers. Eliminate the “impossible choices” Let’s try a few.” I would then use deductive reasoning to rule out illogical choices in a few sample questions, all the time thinking out loud, "This choice makes no sense. I will quickly cross it out." At this point I would bring the students into the discussion, encouraging their questions and comments.

During this latter activity, I would advise them not to be concerned with the pronunciation of any particular word. Rather, identify it by the spelling. Again, I would model this technique.

I would then say, “Keep the questions in mind as you read the text. When you come upon a word, phrase or sentence related to a question, highlight it. That will make for easier reference when you answer the question.” Again I would demonstrate this approach. As we progressed with the lesson, I would further encourage a more active role from the students. They should support, negate or or clarify their classmates' questions and concerns. This would lay the groundwork for future, self-sufficient responses on the part of all.

In the exercise described above, the children are not just practicing the test, but actively analyzing it. These techniques must be demonstrated many times, before allowing the children to gradually work in an independent manner.

For the students with more acute reading problems, I would form small groups. I would bring to their attention how much they already know about the subject of the passage by activating and discussing their prior knowledge. I would then model the strategies with one or two passages, allowing extra time for their responses as well.

To sum up,these strategies can promote test taking acuity in other areas of the curriculum. For instance, when dealing with math word problems, I always advise the students to read the questions first. This develops a schema on which to hang the important numbers. In social studies and science, children can be taught to read the wrap up questions beforehand. They can then use those questions as a map, noting the “big towns” (ideas), as they “travel” through the chapter. Subsequently, they can use sticky notes to identify pertinent information as they read through the material.

What Good Test Takers Do!

1. Read the directions carefully.
2. Study the title and picture.
3. Scan the selection for length.
4. Read the questions carefully before reading the selection.
5. Read all the choices.
6. Cross out the wrong answers.
7. Read the selection with care, highlighting any parts related to the questions.
8. Look for the best answer.
9. Don’t leave it blank!



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