Assessing Test Taking Skills


Before deciding what test-taking skills to teach students, it is important to first assess their current skills so that you know what areas to focus on and what test-skills are already utilized.
*There are many different ways to assess your students' test-taking ability. A few different methods are described below.*
Using a test-taking skills test
  • Test-taking skills test items should be embedded in a "real" test so that students think that there is a real answer to the question. You might want to tell students that there are some items on the test that aren't meant to trick them, but may be difficult to answer, and they should just try their best.
  • Measuring how students answer the test-taking skills items can help evaluate testing strengths and weaknesses and prepare for test-taking skills teaching.
Using a passage independent test
  • These tests contain the questions from a reading comprehension test, but don't include the reading passage. Students have to guess the answers based on test-taking skills or prior knowledge.
  • It is extremely important to tell your students that this is not a graded test and many of these questions will be impossible to answer without the passage. However, as many as a fourth of the questions could probably be answered as is.
Post-test interviews
  • Whether a test was "real" or not, interviews can be very useful, especially for students who scored poorly. Have students explain why they chose each answer. If the test is a test-taking skills test, having the student talk through their thinking process while taking the test may also be helpful.
  • Often, students who scored poorly will report that they "guessed" or "don't remember" why they chose certain items. Students who scored higher will usually be able to describe the strategy they used to find the answer. 
  • Students can also be asked how sure they are that their answer is correct (measuring confidence and estimated competence.) If students cannot estimate the correctness of their responses, they will not know whether they should try to correct them.
Having a test-taking skills pretest and a posttest can help students see what they have learned and the progress they have made. It can also help students feel more confident about taking tests in the future.