Pass That Exam! 14 Test Prep Strategies

“… these tests are unable to measure all of what it is that makes you the valued person who you are.” – Principal Len Christie

Exam time is stressful for students and teachers. Teachers want to help students pass exams due to the high stakes, but also would like the curriculum to focus on meaningful learning. Research has shown standardized test scores do not reflect many students true knowledge and skills. Students who understand the format, take test prep courses, and understand the strategy needed to pass these tests will often outperform their peers. This kind of system is unfair to many students who cannot afford these test prep courses.

In Chapter 17: Re-evaluate Value of the The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, I discuss the costs of not passing standardized tests:

Below is a slide presentation full of test prep ideas to help teachers support learners to pass exams in more effective ways. Scroll down to access the bookmarks. ​​

Tips and Resources

  • Write students and parents a letter letting them know students are worth more than their scores, such as this inspiring letter written by Principal Len Christie.
  • Familiarize students with the format and procedures, the stakes involved, time limits for each section, instructions, what they should bring, scoring, sections and requirements.
  • What are the testing accommodations? Make sure students who are eligible for accommodations apply before the deadline.
  • Practice tests in differenct languages can be found at If a student takes the test in his/her native language then in English, that student could score much better in English.
  • Pretest early to assess: confusion, learning needs, low scoring areas, stressors, strategies and base knowledge
  • Help students come up with strategies for when they don’t know the answers, don’t understand the question or instructions, are running out of time, get tired, lose focus, or are unmotivated to continue. They could doodle, stretch, conduct breathing exercises, or give themselves pep talks.
  • Create a testing playbook! Find a fantastic example here.
  • Try test prep stations where students take turns completing different tasks. Find this activity here.
  • For at least a few writings, word problems, and so forth, assess with the same scoring guide as the test so students are familiar with the scoring system.
  • Make it interesting! Take a look at this amazing Pinterest board with fun ways to prepare for tests.
  • Play and create games that are similar to the multiple choice formats. GetKahoot and TinyTap are my favorites.
  • Get students to practice with online communities like Voxopop’s free talk groups.
  • Help them deal with the stress with humor! Create memes.
  • Some other test prep web tools include Quizlet (iOS/Android/Web) for learning vocabulary, the Gojimo Test Prep app (iOS/Android) and ExamTime. ExamTime also has a free student study guide and the GoConqr free app.

Challenge: Try one of these testing strategies this year to prepare students.


Click on the icons to view that bookmark!
Exam Prep, by shellyterrell

If you enjoyed these ideas, you may want to get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachersor my $5.99 ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics.

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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a teacher trainer, instructional designer, adjunct professor, and the author of The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers: Small Steps to Transform Your Teaching and Learning to Go: Lesson Ideas for Teaching with Mobile Devices, Cell Phones and BYOT. She has been recognized by the ELTon Awards, The New York Times, the Ministry of Education in Spain, and Microsoft’s Heroes for Education as an innovator in the movement of teacher-driven professional development and education technology. Recently, she was named Woman of the Year 2014 by Star Jone’s National Association of Professional Women and awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, the Twitter chat that spurred over 400 teacher chats. She has trained teachers and taught learners in over 25 countries and has consulted with organizations worldwide such as UNESCO Bangkok, The European Union aPLaNet Project, Cultura Iglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, and VenTESOL. She shares regularly via, Twitter (@ShellTerrell), and Her greatest joy is being the mother of Rosco the pug.

1 comment

  1. Muy buen artículo, escribo en castellano porque se me hace más fácil. Tengo el conocimiento para poder leer el texto en inglés pero no para escribir una respuesta correctamente.

    Voy a tomar parte de la información para publicar en nuestro blog de educación:


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