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Test-Taking Skills - A Zoo with Many Animals?

Test-taking wracks the brains of many students, while others skate through tests with little stress, little care...and even less concern for the test's results. The reason for this is because some students have mastered the "Test-Taking Game," and others have not. This is natural. Some people master the game of golf, others don't. The same is true for any sport that requires skill and practice.

While throwing a javelin or piloting a toboggan may be irrelevant in the lives of most modern students, performing well on standardized, high-stakes tests has been elevated to the level of "top-priority." The students who figure out (crack, decipher, unravel) the test-taking code on their own may not be any "smarter" (or "less smart") than other students who perform with expected grade level scores. In fact, many standardized test scores reflect how well students maneuver around test questions instead of revealing what students' know and how well they know it.

In addition to the skill of taking the test, some students face mounting panic and anxiety when faced with yet another, all-important, "catastrophy-if-I-don't-pass-it" test. Test anxiety presents some students with a challenge of a different feather; i.e., they understand the tested material, and they understand the test-maker code so that they could pick the correct answers (or at least most of them) if their thought processes were "calm, cool and collected."

However, their thought processes are agitated, confused and playing that golf game with only one hand, throwing a javelin with a foot, or steering that toboggan while sitting backwards! Some student experience test anxiety so strongly that they are almost making every golf putt as if they were blindfolded. Some students experience test anxiety, and they don't know the code for answering multiple choice questions. This is a "double whammy."

Students who experience test anxiety and who do not know the test-taking code might just as well choose answers at random. Students who struggle with both issues often score worse than chance on tests; i.e., shaking dice and entering the answer based upon the numbers that are rolled may obtain a higher score on the test. Test scores for these students are amazingly poor. In order to obtain test scores this low, skilled test takers would have to know the "right" answer and deliberately choose an incorrect answer.

So, if test-taking seems like entering a jungle filled with dangers; determine if your issue is a need for improved test-taking skills, or a need to reduce test-taking anxiety. Fortunately, personal tutoring can provide solutions, a safety net, and hope that the test-taking beast can be tamed.


Joseph C.

Tutor, Mentor and Coach