Test-Taking Strategies for ELA/Math

April 14, 2015

With the ELA/Math exams coming up soon, it’s important to know how to prepare for the actual exam, apart from knowing the content. Here are some great tips from Dana Brown, an academic instructor at Pittsford School District in Pittsford, NY.

Multiple Choice:

  • Read each set of directions carefully
  • Look at each answer choice before choosing your answer
  • Go with your gut–don’t go back and forth between what you think is the answer and what seems like it could be the right answer
  • Make sure you’re watching the clock–answer all questions you are certain of first, then go back to the more difficult questions
  • Be certain that you are marking your answer on the correct line of the answer sheet
  • Utilize the “process of elimination” and cross off the answer choices that absolutely cannot be the answer
  • Use any time you have leftover to check over all of your work and to review your answers
  • Fill in each answer thoroughly to ensure you receive full credit

Reading Comprehension:

  • Read the questions first before reading the passages–this way you know what to look out for while you’re reading!
  • Read the passage carefully with the questions in mind
  • Read the questions again carefully
  • Scan the passage for key words that relate to the question, then slow down and read for context clues once you’ve found the key words

Finding the “main idea” of a passage:

via http://www.pittsfordschools.org/webpages/danabrown/resources.cfm?subpage=22181

The main idea is a brief statement of what the author wants you to know, think, or feel after reading the text.  In some cases, the main idea will actually be stated.  Check the first and last paragraph for a sentence that sums up the entire passage.

Usually, however, the author will not tell you what the main idea is, and you will have to infer it.  To infer the main idea, ask yourself these questions about the text:

  • Who or what is this passage about?
  • What does the author want me to know, think, or feel about this “who” or “what”?
  • If I had to tell someone in one sentence what this passage is about, what would I say?

Finding the theme:

  • How and why has the main character or speaker changed by the end of the story?
  • What has the main character learned by the end of the story?
  • How is the reader supposed to feel about the events of the story?
  • What is the author trying to say about life?
  • What is the “moral” or lesson of the story?

How to answer short response questions:

  • Use the graphic organizer section to really plan out your responses, but know that you do not need to use full sentences
  • Write at least four sentences  for your short responses: the first sentence should restate the question; the second, third, and fourth should provide supporting evidence to answer the question.
  • Use additional time to proofread your answers



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