24 Middle School ELA Test Prep Boot Camp

Test Prep Boot Camp

It’s test taking season, so we’d like to share with you some tips for hosting a quick test prep boot camp!

You should plan to spend a week on your boot camp.  First, you’ll want to hype your students up for this a little.  As soon as middle schoolers hear the word test prep, they’re going to moan and complain.  So instead of saying that, tell your students to help them do their best on the test this year, you’re going to fill them in on some of the big secrets that only teachers know about tests.  Explain to them that you’re going to teach them the secrets that teachers use when making the tests along with a few other strategies to help them ace any test!  

Top Secret #1:  First of all, teach students the trick of true/false when taking multiple-choice tests.  Even if they aren’t dealing with a true/false question, students can still use these two words to help them find the right answer.   Instruct students to read the question and each choice as if they were separate true-false statements. So, they read choice “a” and ask is this true or false? Then choice “b,” and so on.  Eliminating false choices by crossing them out can save time and help focus on finding the correct or best answer.

 Top Secret # 2:  Turn the answer choices into questions.  Read each choice and ask questions.  To demonstrate this, I grabbed a released multiple choice question from our SC education department website from a released test: 

Which sentence explains the most likely reason for the newscast containing nonsense?

A. Gabe is distracted while writing out the news reports on index cards.

B. Gabe wants to play a joke on the reporters and his middle school.

C. Gabe mixes up the index cards when he drops them.

D. Gabe is uncomfortable and reads the news incorrectly

I would take choice A and ask, “Was Gabe distracted while he was writing out the news report?  For choice B, I will ask, “Did Gabe want to play a joke on the reporters and his middle school?  etc.  This seems like a simple test prep strategy, but believe me, a lot of students don’t know to use this type of tactic to help them eliminate wrong answer choices.  With some practice, they will see what a great impact this can make!

Top Secret # 3:  There are only so many ways to make up wrong answers.  So, teach your students some of the most common wrong answer choices that test makers use, and do it in a fun and memorable way!  We do this by personifying the most common wrong answer types.  Click here to download a handout that personifies the most common wrong answer types. 

Here are some ideas for using these personified common wrong answer types in your test prep “boot camp”. 

  1.  Go over all of the common wrong answer choices briefly with students by simply listing them on a handout.  Don’t give them the personification version yet.  So, you’ll just give a list like 1.  Overcomplication   2.  Generalization   3.  Distraction.  Etc.  
  2. Put students in groups of three or four.  Give each group one of the personification descriptions.. For example, the group who has overcomplication is given Mr. Overcomplication.  Have those students create a poster or Google Slides presentation about their particular wrong answer choice.  Have them personify the character even further by creating or choosing a character that matches it. They can use Canva for this or they can draw a character themselves.  The group who has generalization will do Generalization George, and so on.  Then, each group can present their personified wrong answer type to the class.  
  3. If you want, you can also allow each group to take a fable and make up five multiple choice questions to go with that story.  For each question, have them make one of the choices be the wrong answer that they were assigned.  So, for example, the group who was assigned Sergeant Half Right would have to have an answer that is partially right as a wrong answer choice for each of their five questions.   After they present to the class, they can give the class the short fable and the questions.  The students should find all of the half right choices in the questions.  
  4. Another thing you can do is provide short passages that have questions already in place.  Remove the multiple choices from the question, and work together to create the choices, or allow your students to make up the wrong choices together, using the common wrong answer types.  By going through the test making process themselves, students will become better test takers! 

We hope you enjoy these ideas and we hope you give them a try!  

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