Teacher Toolbox
Learning Strategies - Study Skills


Because of the high stakes of testing, many children with and without special needs become anxious about taking tests.  Preparing children to know what to expect on the test, how to maneuver the test format, and how to analyze the questions may help them to become less anxious and improve performance.

Test Taking Practice
  • Some children become overwhelmed with filling in the bubbles on the answer sheets.  Provide opportunities for students to become acquainted with completing the answer sheets. Catpin Productions offers a free bubble test generator that you can use to create custom bubble tests for students to practice with.  
  • Teach students how to maneuver the test layout.  Show them how to recognize the direction symbols, bolded information, charts, and highlighted material. 
  • If the visual lay out of the test booklet is too cluttered, encourage students to fold the booklet so there is only one page showing at one time. If scratch paper is allowed, have them cover up the questions they are not working on to minimize visual distraction.
  • Expose children to the different time allotments.  Use regular class time or independent work to help acclimate to the time length.
    For example:
    If they have thirty minutes to work on a section, monitor the time as if it is a testing session.

  • Teach children to recognize the key words, terms, and common phrases that are used in tests.
  • Often students overlook the stop and start marks so point them out to the student.

Examples of Common Test Phrasing

Key Words for Reading:

Main Idea

  • This passage is mostly about…
  • The central idea is….

View Points

  • The author wrote this passage to…
  • What is the purpose of the passage …

Specific Details

  • According to the passage…
  • Give an example of …

Key Words for Mathematics:

Number Sense

  • Give the number nearest to
  • Round to
  • The number greater than, less than, and/or equal to
  • This digit shows the value (For example, in 345, the 3 holds the place for hundreds, the 4 holds a place for tens, the 5 for ones)


  • This number sentence is the same as …
  • Which symbol means to ______    (Ex, + or 1)
  • In all       (sums)
  • Find the difference
  • Practice how to analyze the test questions. Instruct students about the different types of questions.

    For example:

    • What – may ask for a concrete response or a specific detail.
    • Why/How – may be seeking a reason or an inference.
    • When – may ask for a response that refers to historical time, a specific date or hour, or a general reference.
    • Where – may ask for a location or a setting.
    • Who – may require a specific name, a character, or a subject.
  • Show students how to make educated guesses.

    For example:
    • Teach students how to eliminate unnecessary responses in multiple choice selections.
    • Have them recognize the wording most commonly used in testing to support their guessing between two closely related answers (e.g. ‘all of the time’ versus ‘some of the time’).
    • Show students how to use previous answers or information to guide responses to subsequent questions.
  • When practicing for the test, directly point out how the test is similar to things they learned in class.  This will help them to recognize familiar elements and to connect to prior knowledge.
  • Guide students to use their problem solving strategies when working with practice problems, such as what type of diagram or pictorial representation will support solving a math problem.
  • Provide caregivers information about the tests, the state’s rules on testing, scoring, and how to gather samples about the testing format. Keeping caregivers informed about the rules and regulations may help to lessen the stress families feel if they are uncomfortable with the use and purposes of the standardized testing scores.