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 different 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.
  • Help them deal with the stress with humor! Create memes.
  • Some other test prep web tools include Quizlet (iOS/Android/Web) for learning vocabulary 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 (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell),, and on her blog,, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at

One 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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