Student Test Taking Skills: What do Students Need to Be Proficient on Standardized Exams
Students are exposed to a variety of testing situations throughout their educational experience. Though classroom assessments take a variety of forms, from verbal or performance based to pencil and paper, standardized tests have become a yearly reality for many students.
It takes more than academic skills for students to show they are proficient in their respective grade levels. In a teacher's workshop held in January of 2019, Diana Watson from the Center for School Success explained these as a triangle being built on students’ basic and neurodevelopmental skills and peaking with academic and test taking skills.
On a basic level, students need the physiological and social skills expected in a testing situation. Physiological preparedness not only being able to use a pencil or keyboard as required in the exam but also having eaten a good breakfast or snack before it. Socially, students need to be prepared for the stress of test taking and also understand social concepts such as not to talk while taking the test.
Neurodevelopment refers to the development of the brain. The skills involved in test taking that depend on brain development include mental energy, memory, putting information in sequence, motor function and even reading and understanding language. Children develop physically and mentally at different rates. Students’ brains need to be ready neurologically for the test, and this is not something that can always be achieved eating a good breakfast.
Academics, such and English language and mathematics, are the areas directly tested by standardized exams. Students need to either already know the material or be able to construct an answer while taking the test to show proficiency, both of which are skills they develop in the classroom. Unfortunately, without the foundation of basic and neurodevelopmental skills academics can fall apart under testing conditions.
Test Taking Skills
Test taking skills are the peak of the triangle. These skills, ranging from filling in circles and writing essays for paper and pencil tests to using the computer for computerized assessments, are necessary but only a small part of the test taking needs of students.
For a successful test taking experience, students first need to be physically prepared, which includes being developmentally ready as well as eating a good breakfast or snack before starting. Next, each student needs to be ready neurologically as well as academically for the methods, material and knowledge being tested. Finally, students do need prior exposure to testing techniques so they know how to take the exam and demonstrate they are proficient in the academic material.