Are your students gearing up to take the TOEFL or TOIC?
Help them get ready with these simple preparation activities.
Discover 10 Tips for Giving Your Students Success on Tests
Practice Makes Imperfect
One struggle many ESL students have when taking standardized tests is over preparation. Now, I don’t mean students can know too much English or have too advanced skills to take a test. What I do mean is that some students have taken too many practice exams. For some students, taking practice exams can actually hinder their ability to succeed on standardized tests. The students who tend to overtake practice exams are those who feel insecure in their language abilities to begin with. And the combination of the two can lead to lack of confidence when it comes to taking the real test. In other words, students can psych themselves out. Eliminate this problem before your students get to it by limiting the number of practice tests you administer and encouraging students not to take too many on their own time, either.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
You can overcome lack of confidence in your students (which will have a detrimental effect when they sit down to take standardized tests) by repeating activities in class. By giving students an activity that they have already done at least once in class, your students will be primed for success. Try repeating a worksheet or activity as an opener for class or as a review activity. Not only will your students feel good when they know the answers, an encore performance of given activity will solidify those concepts in your students’ minds, eliminating questions as well as lack of confidence.
The Circle of Life
Repeating a particular activity in class isn’t the only way to give students confidence and prepare them for success. Try covering the same topic in class at regular intervals. You can either teach the same material (with different methods, of course) several days in a row, or spend one day each week teaching a particular piece of information. Do this until students find the task or material easy, and then add a second or third element to your instruction (while still teaching the material you already covered). This way, students build on what they already know instead of tossing out the old unit when it’s time to start the new one.
Slow and Steady
Your students, no matter what standardized test they are planning to take, will have a listening portion. And preparing them for this section of the exam is necessary for success. But sometimes throwing them into exam level material, even if you cover it in small chunks and review it copiously in class, isn’t good enough. Some students will benefit far more from a simple slowing down of the listening material. If you have a good classroom tape player or digital recorder, you should have a slowdown function where you can adjust the speed at which the recorded information is played. Try slowing down your listening material for your students until they can successfully perform the task you assign them. Then, as the days and weeks go by, speed the material up little by little until your students are able to successfully accomplish their tasks with the tape running at normal speed, the speed they will have to manage on the exam.
Clozed for Practice
Cloze activities are great for getting an overall read of your students’ skills in English. When you replace a blank every five to ten words in a given reading passage, your students will have to rely on all of their language skills to successfully complete the exercise. You can create a simple cloze activity with any reading passage your students have read or will read. Don’t require students to fill in the blanks with specific words. As long as what they write is grammatical and makes logical sense, they have succeeded at the task.
Keep It Simple
But sometimes testing all areas of language at the same time is not the right choice, and that is particularly true when preparing ESL students for standardized exams. Instead of focusing on all areas of language competency at one time, try choosing only one area for a preparation activity. If you are creating a cloze exam, replace only verbs or only conjunctions. This way students will focus on one area of language competency rather than all areas at one time. In so doing, students will gain confidence from the more manageable challenge.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Using one reading passage for multiple tasks in test preparation will also be of benefit to your ESL students. Try using a reading passage as the basis for a cloze activity, then having students do a reading comprehension activity with the same material, and then using it again for a grammar lesson.
All in This Together
Multiple choice activities don’t have to give students a choice from A to D for every question. Instead, try mixing up all of the answer choices at the bottom of the page with several questions. We often do this with a word bank for cloze activities and fill in the blanks, but you can change things up with any multiple choice acidity this way, too. In addition to finding the correct answers to your questions, students will also have to determine which answers can be used with each of the questions, adding an element of grammar and comprehension to any multiple choice exercise.
Give Them the Answers
Can it really help your students if you give them the answers to questions that are supposed to test them? Yes! Giving your students a set of questions with the answers already marked will challenge them in a different way. Instead of trying to find the correct answer to the question, you can ask them to explain why that answer is the right one. That might entail going to a source paragraph and locating specific information, or it may be that they explain a grammatical concept or particular vocabulary word. Either way, when students are on the explaining end of instruction, they will understand the information better and remember it more easily.
Make Prioritizing a Priority
Timed tests are a challenge, but with standardized exams, all the questions are worth the same amount of points. You can help your students succeed on test day by teaching them to answer the easiest questions first. Give your students some exam style questions, and have them skim through the list without answering any questions. Instead, have them mark the questions they immediately know the answers to with a star, the questions they think they can answer with a circle, and the toughest questions, the real stumpers, with an exclamation point. Then have students answer the questions in that order – starred, circled, and then exclamation pointed. Point out to them that they should follow this pattern on test day, looking to answer the easy questions first before going back to do the tougher ones. It may make a big difference in how many points they are able to score on the big day.
Hopefully these tips will help you get your students ready for exam day.
What are your best ideas? Share them with us in the comments section below.