Are you wondering how best to prepare your students for their state science test? If your state has adopted the NGSS for the standards or a version of them, then the state test will most likely test students' ability to use their science skills rather than memorize science facts. If they incorporate a few test-taking strategies, they will be able to pass the state test with flying colors. So instead of trying to cram in as many topics as you can during the week before the test, guide the students on how to approach each question and pull the information from it.
Focus your Test Prep on:
✅ Helping students identify key details in the passages
✅ Helping students analyze data tables and graphs and look for patterns
✅ Helping students answer short answer questions using the CER format. Evidence should come from the information provided.
✅ Helping students realize that they will be able to answer most of the questions without having background knowledge of the topic.
You can help your students rock their state science test by guiding them through these five test-taking strategies on most of their questions.
Test-taking strategy #1: Highlight the Important Information from the Question
Explain to the students that highlighting the important information from the question helps them focus on what information they should be looking for in the passage, data table, graphs, and diagrams.
Test-taking strategy #2: Underlining key information
Have students practice underlining or highlighting key details given in the passage. Underlining the key details helps students pull out the important information the test makers provide. The test creators want the students to do well, and so they give them hints and clues within the question that the students can use to help them answer the questions.
Test-taking strategy #3: Analyze the Data, Graphs, and Diagrams
You will want to train students to look for patterns and important information from the data tables and graphs. For diagrams, have them identify the important information the diagram provides. Have them choose one of the variables and then see what happens to the other variable when it is increased or decreased. What are some predictions they can make based on the patterns they observe?
Test-taking strategy #4: Determine if They Need to Have Prior Knowledge
After doing a few practice problems, the students should realize that they do not need prior knowledge of the topic for most questions. They need to pull the important information from the passage and the data table, diagram, or graph provided. This is an important step for building the confidence in your students.
Test-taking strategy #5: Putting it All Together
Once the students have highlighted the question, underlined the key information, and found the important information and patterns from the data table, graph, and diagram, it is time to use it all to answer the question. For multiple-choice questions, have the students practice reading all of the information by crossing out the choices that aren't the best choice for the question and circle the options that are the best choice. For short answers, remind them that the claim should include the keywords from the question. The claim should be followed by evidence from the data table, graph, and/or diagram. The reasoning should explain why the evidence supports the claim.
Bonus: Test-taking strategy #6: Student Examples
One way to help the students and let them see how to answer short answer questions is to provide examples. I like to use actual student examples. I removed any identification of the student that wrote it. I then show examples or well-done answers and those that need some modification. I explain the key points that made the well-done answer correct and what I would do to modify and improve the one that needs improving.
Check out my test-taking activity below, for example, questions and teacher guide.