Whether you are teaching a class specifically to prepare for the TOEFL or TOIC or you simply include some element of test preparation in your classes, simulating test conditions is important for getting your students ready for test day.
Simply put, students who have realistic test preparation experiences will do better on standardized tests. And while if you have to choose between the two, test content is more important, why not also try to simulate a realistic testing environment for your students if you can. If you are preparing your students with a mock standardized exam, think about the following elements to get your conditions during the test as close to the real thing as possible.
8 Easy Tips for Getting Test Conditions Right for Practice Tests
Your comfortable classroom may be almost like a second home to your students. They probably spend more time there than any place other than home if they study English abroad. It’s good that your classroom is a comfortable, safe place. However, that ease won’t help students on test day. They will not be in your classroom, and likely they will not be in a comforting setting. Therefore to simulate test day best for your students, you will need to get them out of your classroom. Try getting access to a large auditorium, and conduct your practice test there.
While you are seating your students in a large auditorium like they will see on test day, arrange their seating realistically, too. Have your students sit with two to three seats between them and in alternating rows. Your students will be alone on their test days, so the best practice exams will leave lots of space between students so they don’t rely on the security of being near their friends not to mention keeping them far enough away that they can’t see one another’s papers.
Not only should you use a large room for your practice testing, you should also think carefully about the audio materials you use for your practice test. Large group tests often use tape players rather than CD players, which can result in a less precise sound for the listening portion of the test. In addition, large rooms tend to echo, increasing the challenge for your ESL students. Make sure that your students have practice with recorders in large spaces. Even though doing this might make the listening portion more challenging during your practice test, it will be good preparation for your students when the real test day comes.
Individual Testing Centers
Some students will take their standardized exams in exam locations on individual computers. If this is the case, have students practice taking their exam individually with headphones at their own testing stations in a computer or listening lab. This may make the listening portion easier for them since headphones will give a better quality of oral passages. Still, the more you replicate actual exam conditions, the better your students will do when they take the test for real.
Make It Count
Though your students will doubtless want to perform well on the actual TOEFL, TOIC, or other standardized test, they may not attribute as much weight to a practice test. You can help motivate your students to take the test seriously, and you should. When they care more about the outcome of the test, they will have a different attitude as they take it. Some of that attitude will be stress during the exam. To make the practice test count, you can count it as part of your students’ grades, you can assign extra homework based on test scores, or you can make students who do not test well take the practice exam again. And though you want your students to ultimately relax when they take their standardized exam, you want their practice to be as realistic as possible.
Get Other People Involved
You won’t be the one monitoring the standardized test that your students take on test day, so to create the most realistic test conditions for your practice day, get someone your students do not know to greet them the day of the practice test. You should also have that person administer the practice test as well. Throughout the practice test, the proctor should act like a test administrator, limiting their activities during the test to walking around the room and observing students rather than reading or grading their own papers. They should also refrain from being overly friendly with students or making conversation with them before, during, or after the practice test.
By the time they take standardized exams, your students are sure to have friends from your classroom. No so on testing day. Testers will not be permitted to talk (especially during the exam). On practice test day, encourage your students to act like they are not a part of a friendly group of classmates. Have them refrain from talking to each other before, during, and after the exam. That way they will know how to prepare themselves before the exam starts on the big day.
Timing matters when it comes to standardized testing, so make it matter in your practice testing, too. Make sure you have a large clock displayed in the testing facility. Put start and stop times on the board as your students complete each section. And put a countdown on your board (e.g. 30 minutes remaining, 20 minutes remaining) and update it every ten to fifteen minutes. At five minutes remaining for each section, make a verbal announcement. Do not allow students who finish early to leave the testing area, and do not allow any work after time is up.
Standardized tests tend to be very important to ESL students, and they may want you to spend class time helping them prepare for the big test day. If you do, think about these test conditions and try to replicate them on the practice day. If you do, your students will be better prepared to score big when the answers count.