Tool for the Field: Guidelines for Using a Practice Test


Obtain a copy of a practice test by asking a teacher or someone on the instructional team. The practice test should be similar to one that the student will take in the near future.

Hand the student the practice test and then ask, “What is the first thing you should do?” Ask the student to read the test’s instructions aloud to you. Afterward, discuss with the student what important information was in the instructions. At this point, check to be sure the student understands important terms in the instructions, such as “identify,” “summarize,” or “define.”

Ask the student to skim through the test and then ask, “What kinds of questions are on the test and how many questions are there?”  If the student needs help, point out the different kinds of questions and what they’re asking for (e. g. multiple choice, true/false, essay, short-answer).

Have the student make a prediction about how long it will take to answer the questions. If the practice test is short (only one or two pages), have the student answer all the questions as you time the work. If it is a long sample test (three or more pages), have the student answer the questions on the first page only.  Time the student and see how close her/his prediction came.  Discuss with the student the differences in time that different types of questions take to answer.

Ask the student to read and think aloud as he or she answers different types of questions.  Discuss the student’s thinking in terms of test-taking skills such as reading carefully, eliminating as many choices as possible when guessing about multiple-choice answers, and giving at least a partial answer on a short-answer or essay questions.

Have the student finish the test silently.  After the student has answered all of the questions on the test, ask him or her to go back and try to finish any uncompleted questions and to review his or her answers to other questions.

Ask the student to complete the Test-taking Strategies Checklist below.  Discuss any questions the student has about the skills checklist or practice test.

Test-taking Strategies Checklist

  Check to indicate “yes”
Did I read the test instructions carefully?  
Did I skim the test to see how many and what kind of questions were on it?  
Did I predict long it would take me to complete the test?  
Did I read each question carefully?  
Did I guess on questions I didn’t know the answers to?  
Did I move on if a question took so much time it might keep me from finishing the test?  
Did I go back over the test to finish questions I had trouble answering and to review my other answers?