Test Preparation

Resources on this website

One other page currently on this website will be helpful to students in preparing for the STAR test. It is Science Standards page, which includes the science standards for both fourth and fifth grades, because 60% of the questions on the test will come from fifth grade science concepts, while 40% will come from fourth grade science concepts.

Students will find questions to help them review and research fourth grade science concepts. They can be found on life sciences, earth sciences, and physical sciences.

Resources on the STAR website

There is a great deal of information on the STAR website if you are interested. You can find blueprints for English-Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science here. For example, the science blueprint explains that there are 18 questions in physical sciences, 11 for fifth grade and 7 for fourth grade, 18 questions for life sciences, 9 for fifth grade and 9 for fourth grade, and 18 questions for earth sciences, 11 for fifth grade and 7 for fourth grade. Each of those strands makes up 30% of the test. The remaining 10% of the test is made up of six questions from the Investigation and Experimentation standard, 4 for fifth grade and 2 for fourth grade.

Each year, I give my fifth grade students a copy of the periodic table of elements as used on the STAR test for fifth grade physical sciences, as well as a mineral identification table used on the STAR test for fourth grade earth sciences. If you want to print these out for yourself, you can find them on the Program Resources page of the STAR website. Follow the link called STAR California Standards Test (CST) Reference Sheets. They are pdf files and you will need Adobe Acrobat to view and print them.

On the STAR website in a document called Guidelines on Acdemic Preparation for State Assessments are the following "examples of appropriate test-taking strategies" that might be included by teachers:

  • Using time efficiently
  • Understanding directions
  • Placing answers correctly on answer sheets
  • Checking answers
  • Using the problem-solving tactics of educated guessing, estimating, and working problems backward
  • Exposing students to various test formats, including questions that contain "none of the above," "all of the above," "not here," negative wording, and true-false statements

FYI: STAR is an acronym for Standardized Testing and Reporting, which is what the State of California calls its testing program. What students actually take in fifth grade is called the California Standards Test (CST).

Other Resources

Houghton Mifflin Math Test Preparation
Test Prep on the Net

Test-Prep Tips (from Scholastic.com)

Share these study strategies with your child before a big test.

1. Map out a study schedule — say, 15 to 30 minutes a night depending on the child's age, how much material there is to cover, and how much other homework has to be done.

2. Find out if the teacher has explained whether the test is short-answer, multiple-choice, essay, or a combination of the three. For the first two kinds of tests, kids will need to know lots of facts and details; for essay tests, thinking about the big picture is more important.

3. Review class notes, textbook chapters, study questions, and other materials together and ask your child what she thinks is the most important info.

4. Help your child write down answers and key pieces of information so she can review them later.

5. Review the basics, like who, what, when, where, and why.

6. On test day, remind your child to read the questions all the way through and answer easy ones first.

7. Follow up: If the results are not what you and your child hoped for, talk to the teacher to find out what was missing in your child's preparation.

(You can find this article at Scholastic.com.)

Ways to Help Your Child with Test-Taking

Do encourage your child. Praise them for the things they do well. If they feel good about themselves, they will do their best on a test. Children who are afraid of failing are more likely to become anxious when taking tests and more likely to make mistakes.

Do make sure your child attends school regularly. Remember, tests reflect children’s overall achievement. The more effort and energy your child puts into learning, the more likely he or she will do well on tests.

Do provide a quiet, comfortable place for studying at home and make sure that your child is well rested on school days and especially on the day of a test. Children who are tired are less able to pay attention in class or to handle the demands of a test.

Do make sure your child eats a well-rounded breakfast every morning. A healthy body leads to a healthy, active mind.

Do provide books and magazines for your child to read. By reading new materials, your child will learn new vocabulary words that might appear on a test. Test makers draw on a wide variety of formats when choosing items to evaluate reading comprehension skills, so students should read fiction, non-fiction, poetry, newspapers, recipes, etc.

Do limit your child’s TV time. Studies show that children who watched fewer than three hours of television a day scored higher on the national reading test than those who watched more.

Do help your child avoid test anxiety. It’s good for children to be concerned about taking a test. It’s not good for them to develop “text anxiety.” Test anxiety is worrying too much about doing well on a test. It can mean disaster for your child. Students with test anxiety can worry about success in school. They can become very self-critical and lose confidence in their abilities. Instead of feeling challenged by the prospect of success, they become afraid of failure. To help with test anxiety, help your child to do the following: Plan ahead. Start studying well in advance. Make sure you understand what material the test will cover. Review the material more than once. Don’t “cram” the night before. Get a good night’s sleep.

Don’t get upset because of a single test score. Test scores are not perfect measures of what a child knows or can do. Also, many things can influence how your child does on a test on any particular day. One test is simply one test.

Don’t place so much emphasis on children’s test scores that you lose sight of their well being. Too much pressure can affect their test performance. Remember, your love and support should not be conditioned on how well they perform on tests.

(originally published in Creative Classroom magazine)

Help Your Child Improve in Test-Taking

American children must be ready to learn from the first day of school. And of course, preparing children for school is a historic responsibility of parents.

Test. It's a loaded word. Important…something to care about…something that can mean so much we get apprehensive thinking about it.

Tests are important, especially to school children. A test may measure a basic skill. It can affect a year's grade. Or, if it measures the ability to learn, it can affect a child's placement in school. So it's important to do well on tests.

Besides, the ability to do well on tests can help throughout life in such things as getting a driver's license, trying out for sports, or getting a job. Without this ability, a person can be severely handicapped.

Your child can develop this ability. And you can help the child do it. Just try the simple techniques developed through Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) research. This leaflet tells you how.

Why Test?

It's helpful for a child to understand why schools give tests. And to know the different kinds of tests.
Tests are yardsticks. Schools use them to measure, and then improve education. Some tell schools that they need to strengthen courses or change teaching techniques. Other tests compare students by schools, school districts, or cities. All tests determine how well "your child" is doing. And that's very important.

Most of the tests your child will take are "teacher-made." That is, teachers design them. These tests are associated with the grades on report cards. They help measure a student's progress—telling the teacher and the student whether he or she is keeping up with the class, needs extra help, or, perhaps, is far ahead of other students.

Now and then your child will take "standardized" tests. These use the same standards to measure student performance across the country. Everyone takes the same test according to the same rules. This makes it possible to measure each student's performance against that of others. The group with whom a student's performance is compared is a "norm group" and consists of many students of the same age or grade who took the same test.

Ask the School

It could be useful for you to know the school's policies and practices on giving standardized tests and the use of test scores. Ask your child's teacher or guidance counselor about the kinds of tests your child will take during the year—and the schedule for testing.

One other thing: some schools give students practice in taking tests. This helps to make sure that they are familiar with directions and test format. Find out whether your child's school gives "test-taking practice" on a regular basis or will provide such practice if your child needs it.

Avoid Test Anxiety

It's good to be concerned about taking a test. It's not good to get "test anxiety." This is excessive worry about doing well on a test and it can mean disaster for a student.

Students who suffer from test anxiety tend to worry about success in school, especially doing well on tests. They worry about the future, and are extremely self-critical. Instead of feeling challenged by the prospect of success, they become afraid of failure. This makes them anxious about tests and their own abilities. Ultimately, they become so worked up that they feel incompetent about the subject matter or the test.

It does not help to tell the child to relax, to think about something else, or stop worrying. But there are ways to reduce test anxiety. Encourage your child to do these things:

  • Space studying over days or weeks. (Real learning occurs through studying that takes place over a period of time.) Understand the information and relate it to what is already known. Review it more than once. (By doing this, the student should feel prepared at exam time.)
  • Don't "cram" the night before—cramming increases anxiety which interferes with clear thinking. Get a good night's sleep. Rest, exercise, and eating well are as important to test-taking as they are to other schoolwork.
  • Read the directions carefully when the teacher hands out the test. If you don't understand them, ask the teacher to explain.
  • Look quickly at the entire examination to see what types of questions are included (multiple choice, matching, true/ false, essay) and, if possible, the number of points for each. This will help you pace yourself.
  • If you don't know the answer to a question, skip it and go on. Don't waste time worrying about it. Mark it so you can identify it as unanswered. If you have time at the end of the exam, return to the unanswered question(s).

Do's and Don't's

You can be a great help to your children if you will observe these do's and don't's about tests and testing:

  • Don't be too anxious about a child's test scores. If you put too much emphasis on test scores, this can upset a child.
  • Do encourage children. Praise them for the things they do well. If they feel good about themselves, they will do their best. Children who are afraid of failing are more likely to become anxious when taking tests and more likely to make mistakes.
  • Don't judge a child on the basis of a single test score. Test scores are not perfect measures of what a child can do. There are many other things that might influence a test score. For example, a child can be affected by the way he or she is feeling, the setting in the classroom, and the attitude of the teacher. Remember, also, that one test is simply one test.
  • Meet with your child's teacher as often as possible to discuss his/her progress. Ask the teacher to suggest activities for you and your child to do at home to help prepare for tests and improve your child's understanding of schoolwork. Parents and teachers should work together to benefit students.
  • Make sure your child attends school regularly. Remember, tests do reflect children's overall achievement. The more effort and energy a child puts into learning, the more likely he/she will do well on tests.
  • Provide a quiet, comfortable place for studying at home.
  • Make sure that your child is well rested on school days and especially the day of a test. Children who are tired are less able to pay attention in class or to handle the demands of a test.
  • Give your child a well rounded diet. A healthy body leads to a healthy, active mind. Most schools provide free breakfast and lunch for economically disadvantaged students. If you believe your child qualifies, talk to the school principal.
  • Provide books and magazines for your youngster to read at home. By reading new materials, a child will learn new words that might appear on a test. Ask your child's school about a suggested outside reading list or get suggestions from the public library.

After the Test

It's important for children to review test results. This is especially true when they take teacher-made tests. They can learn from a graded exam paper. It will show where they had difficulty and, perhaps, why. This is especially important for classes where the material builds from one section to the next, as in math. Students who have not mastered the basics of math will be unable to work with fractions, square roots, beginning algebra, and so on.

Discuss the wrong answers with your children and find out why they answered as they did. Sometimes a child misunderstands the way a question is worded or misinterprets what was asked. The child may have known the correct answer but failed to express it effectively.

It's important, too, for children to see how well they used their time on the test and whether guessing was a good idea. This helps them to change what they do on the next test, if necessary.

You and the child should read and discuss all comments written by the teacher. If there are any comments that aren't clear, the child should ask the teacher to explain.

(This brochure is in the public domain. Feel free to photocopy or reprint it.)

(You can find this article from April 1993 on the U.S. Department of Education website.)

Checklist for Test "De-Stress"

Does your child get stressed about tests? Follow this checklist to ease worries about standardized tests.

By Victoria Thorp, GreatSchools.net Staff

In many states children start taking standardized tests as early as first grade. With the help of the following tips, you can ease your child's anxieties about the test process.

  • Get the facts.

Find out the exact dates your child will be tested and which tests he will take this year. Check to see if the tests will be different in any way from the ones he took the year before. Once you know what's happening, you can help your child feel ready for what's ahead.

  • Talk to your child.

Find out whether your child is feeling nervous and if so, why. Often children feel better when they voice their fears, so give your child a chance to talk about the process. If your child is afraid of failing or doing poorly, your reassurances will help him feel less frightened.

  • Help your child practice.

If your child is familiar with the format of the test, he'll feel more prepared. Ask his teacher or check your state's Department of Education Web site for some sample questions or other materials that can help him get acquainted with the test.

  • Take care of the basics.

See that your child gets a good night's sleep the night before the test and eats breakfast that morning.

  • Keep your cool.

While tests have increasing importance, they are just one measure of student learning, so try to keep the process in perspective. If you remain calm, chances are your child will probably feel calmer, too.

(You can find this article at: GreatSchools.net.)

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