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Sustain Focus on Standardized Tests


Standardized Test Prep All Ages Strategy


Self-regulation Attention

Sustain Focus on Standardized Tests

If your student loses focus during tests, which results in scattered errors or difficulty finishing

Instruction And Practice

  1. Staying focused through a standardized test is challenging. Help your student identify the sections where they tend to lose focus. Attention will have a bigger impact depending on the length of the test, student interest in the topic, and where it falls in the test taking order.
  2. Offer practice sections and a timer and have them note when they have the most difficulty maintaining focus: are they working too fast/too slowly at the beginning? mid-way? last third? Are there certain topics where they lose interest?
  3. Once tough spots are identified, plan what the student can do BEFORE losing focus. Use positive self-talk/reminders at the beginning. Quickly stretch or take a deep breath at a point BEFORE the tough spots. Have the student use a pencil to track place during reading passages. Small physical movement can help students stay alert.
  4. Offer practice sections in the environment where the student will test and in the format the test will be given (online vs. paper-based.)
  5. Make a plan for HOW the student will check work for each section.
  6. If available, offer students noise cancelling headphones.

Student Strategies

  1. Doing well on tests goes beyond just knowledge, but also knowing how to approach different types of questions and the amount of time you have.
  2. Plan which strategies you will use for different question types and how you will allocate your time if you don't have as long as you need to carefully consider every answer. Know ahead of time if you are able to go back to previous questions or sections.
  3. Reading Comprehension. Often time consuming and tiring. Skim the questions before reading and annotate passages if possible. This can help your mind focus on what you will need to know to answer the question if your mind wanders while reading.
  4. Multiple Choice. Can be particularly difficult if you have trouble with focus. Eliminate obviously wrong answers first. If time is not an issue, analyze and eliminate the remaining options. Keep in mind that tests often put "2nd best wrong answers" as A or B so remember not to jump to the first answer that looks right.
  5. True and False. Remember that "absolutes" such as ALWAYS tend to be false. Just try to think of a single exception to the rule. Once you have an exception, then you know it can't be true. In math always consider the case of zero or one which, tend to have unique rules.
  6. Always show your work. Write in the margin if there is enough room, or on scrap paper.
  7. Double check your work if there's time. There's no prize for finishing early.