Getting Above the Standard on Standardized Tests
At EE, we have worked with thousands of seventh and eighth grade students over the years prepping them for the various standardized tests required for the high school application process — from the ISEE, SSAT and HSPT to the NWEA MAP, Selective Enrollment Exam, and now the CPS High School Admissions Test.
While it is hard to “study” for such exams (can you really learn thousands of vocabulary words or an entire math course in just a few months?) there is merit in refining your content knowledge and practicing some tried-and-true test-taking strategies. No matter the exam, there are certain principles students ought to live by if they are striving for a top score.
- Read the questions carefully! At the risk of sounding like a broken record, our instructors keep repeating this mantra until students build the habit. There’s no worse feeling than missing a question you knew how to do because you misread the question (or the answer choices, for that matter).
- All the questions are worth 1 point, so don’t linger. Circle and move on if you don’t know the answer. Dwelling for too long on a tough test item may cause you to miss out on several easier questions that lie ahead. Make sure you get to the end of the test and give every question a shot.
- Use all of the time that you are given. Double check all answers. It may seem tedious, but the four minutes you spend checking your work could affect four years of your life!
- Practice! Identify what skills you need to work on and practice those, not the things you’ve already mastered. EE’s test prep answer keys provide breakdowns of which skills are being assessed on each question, so you can easily find out where you excel and what you need to practice.
A lot of what we teach kids are the “No duh” rules (as in, “No duh, of course I should answer all the questions”). They may seem obvious, but these are some of the hardest things for students to remember. So we keep driving them home in all our test prep workshops:
- Listen to directions
- Use scratch paper
- Wear a watch
- Get a good night’s sleep the night before the exam
- Eat a healthy breakfast the day of the exam
Finally, one of the most important stressors that test prep workshops can alleviate is anxiety. Simulating the test environment and providing the types of questions expected on an exam helps decrease the element of surprise for students and gives them more confidence when they sit down on test day. There are no magical secrets to test preparation for high school admissions tests. There are no guarantees of particular scores. There is, however, truth in the statement that practice makes progress (and improves your chance of maximizing potential).