5 Ways to Practice Writing on Standardized Tests

5 Ways to Practice Writing on Standardized Tests

Writing on standardized tests can be hard for students. Most tests try to give a broad enough prompt to get a variety of responses back. There is also a lot of pressure associated with standardized tests, and the writing portions are no different. But how do we prepare students for this type of stressful situation that can yield so many results? Here are a few suggestions as to how to ease your students into writing under pressure.

1. Understand the prompts. 

Old prompts for whatever test you are preparing your students for, whether it is the SAT, the ACT, or state-standardized tests, are released online after a certain amount of time has passed. You can look these over with your class and talk about ways to tackle the requirements listed. These prompts also typically ask for students to use personal experience, lessons from the classroom, and novels they have read as examples. Showing these examples will better prepare students for the test. Part of this particular point is also to help students understand themes from various novels to be able to reference them from memory.

2. Practice timed writing. 

Allow for time during class for the students to practice writing a full response in a certain amount of time, the same time required in the tests. The more practice they get in the classroom, the less pressure they will feel when it finally comes time to write for the test.

3. Have students keep a journal. 

It is possible your students feel nervous about writing for a test because they only ever write for school or under pressure. Having them write for fun and just for themselves will allow them to associate the experience with something more relaxed. In turn, this can help them write something more cohesive when it is required for a test.

4. Start the class with writing. 

Building on the last two points, have your students write whatever is on their minds during class, like a free write. Leaving some time to let them write in class will be beneficial overall. This again reinforces the classroom setting, while also allowing them to associate writing with a more relaxing and therapeutic process.

One way to implement this in the classroom is to utilize daily bell-ringers in your classroom. Both my growth mindset bell-ringers and my classroom kindness bell-ringers focus on the three main writing strands often found on standardized tests.

5. Analyze released passages and examples. 

For many tests, the publishers will release previous writing prompts. Use the previously-released writing prompts to analyze together as a class. Have students work together to write a well-crafted essay based on these prompts, and then analyze student examples together in class. Have students point out which examples are strong and why. Also, have students point out areas of improvement within each example and why they think it needs to be fixed. 

5 Ways to Practice Writing on Standardized Tests

Essentially the most significant point here is practice, practice, practice. When it comes to writing, we can all sit and edit papers with our students, which is suitable for papers that have the time to be edited, but for tests, it is all one sudden burst of writing. Students have to get used to this type of pressure before they get into the test room if they are going to be comfortable and successful. Understanding the question is a huge part, but practicing the art of writing is the only way to improve their writing on tests.
5 Ways to Practice Writing on Standardized Tests