8 Standardized Testing Strategies

I went to a meeting quite a while ago about 8 test-taking strategies. In Illinois, our state test is the ACT (please ask me how stupid this is) which is a college readiness indicator. Whose standards are totally different from the state standards we teach to.

But anyway, the ACT has 33 Algebra questions, 23 Geometry, and 4 Trig questions (do you know that I love Algebra so much that I always capitalize it, but not any other classes? Seriously, I just went back and capitalized Geometry and Trig). The majority of our juniors are at the Geometry level. Automatically, there are 4 Trig questions they don't know, plus the Geometry questions that we haven't covered by the test dates. So, aside from preparing them for the test by teaching the content on the test, these are strategies for the questions where they just don't know what to do. What do you do when you don't know what to do? Why, use a standardized test-taking strategy of course!

And because I too love to list, here are the 8 strategies:
  1. Ball-parking and the 10% Rule
  2. Proportion
  3. Hit the Middle
  4. P.I.T.A
  5. Calculator Shortcuts
  6. "Seeing" with Graph Paper
  7. Drawing and Knowing
  8. "On Your Toes"

Ball-parking and the 10% Rule
This strategy refers to questions that involve percents such as sales tax, discounts, percent of total population, etc. The 10% rule means that you can easily find 10% of the number and multiply times whatever number needed. Ballparking is basically estimating or rounding to help knock out answers that don't make sense and narrow it down to a realistic guess.

Again, this strategy can be used for percentage questions or any questions that are comparing or describing the relationship between two things on a different scale. Ex. "If it takes Chris 45 minutes to make 18 cherry tarts, how many hours will it take to nake 60 cherry tarts maintaining the same pace?" If students can set up the proportion correctly, they can usually cross-multiply and solve.

Hit the Middle
I honestly never noticed this before but did you know that the answers on the ACT are arranged in numerical order? Hit the middle means to start with the answer in the middle, plug it in and solve. Judging by the answer you get, you can usually knock out the answers that are too low or too high. Again, eliminating unrealistic answers helps those guessers.

This is the old-fashioned Plug In The Answer. Try picking answers and plug them into the problem to see which ones work and which ones. Also, when faced with problems including multiple variables, try plugging in numbers to see what happens and then generalize what's going on.

Calculator Shortcuts
Ex What is the value of 2x^2 - 3x + 2 when x = -2? By pressing the STO-> button on the TI-83 and then -2, enter. You can then type in the equation and the calculator will pull in the -2 and solve. Neat-o. Another shortcut is graphing equations to either see where the functions intersect, if there is any intersection at all, and finding equivalent functions.

"Seeing" with Graph Paper
Students can use graph paper to find distance between points, lines that pass through a specific point, and etc. While it's possible to do this on the calculator as well, it may be easier for students to draw out themselves than to try to use the trace or table feature on the calculator.

Drawing and Knowing
One of the things I loved most about my geometry teacher is that every time I had a question, she would pull out a scrap of paper, draw out the problem, and then ask, what do you know? This strategy can be used whether a drawing is provided or not. Draw and label all the given information and anything that you can deduce from what is given. Remember properties of congruency, similarity, special triangles, regular polygons, area, perimeter, diameter, radius, etc. Use your drawing to eliminate wrong answers.

"On Your Toes"
Beware of unnecessary information given in the problems. Also, notice the difference between the answer choices "No values of x satisfy the equation" as opposed to "There is insufficient information to answer the question". Always look for the oddball answers that can immediately be eliminated.

These strategies are courtesy of a professional development meeting by Dr. Tim McNamara.

1 comment:

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