No surprise to anyone, standardized tests like the ACT, SAT, and many others we could name often stress students out.
It's easy to see why...
They squeeze a student's brains between timing restrictions and too many questions to answer.
They confuse a student's brains with poorly worded questions and weird formats.
So let's talk about the champion of essential standardized test taking skills...
The Process Of Elimination
Educators rightly teach young students to use POE when they do their first multiple choice standardized exams. Used correctly the process has students look, first, for a single wrong answer. Once that first wrong answer is found the effective POE user crosses it off, eliminates it--gets it out of their brain's way essentially! Then the hunt begins for a second wrong answer and a second elimination. Ideally, young students can keep repeating the process until there is a single answer left, the right answer.
This method has several benefits over focusing on the hunt for the single correct answer right away.
...POE helps students gain much needed confidence with every successful elimination!
It's easier to succeed at finding one incorrect answer among a battery of mostly bad choices than finding that lone correct answer right away. And it nearly always feels good to eliminate a bad answer. It's a general truth that the more confident a student is during a test the better they can maintain focus and energy throughout an exam. So have them hunt down and get rid of all those incorrect answers on their standardized tests and, in doing so, they will help keep their own spirits high with each successful elimination.
...POE can help students keep a proper perspective on standardized tests.
All our tutors at ATT take pains to make it clear to students who are about to take standardized tests that the exams do not measure their intelligence or ability to succeed in life. Instead, these exams are often blunt, imperfect tools used by different schools and colleges to help make shorter term decisions about how best to serve their students. For example, colleges essentially use ACT and SAT test scores to make better guesses about who might fit well into their academic programs. Using POE can help remind students that they are involved in a process that is almost like a grand guessing game. For each question, they are making the best guess they can in a school-wide and sometimes nation-wide sport. The best players know they are not failing if they are guessing their answers. The best players know that they are doing well if they are using POE to be good guessers. Now, by comparing these tests to games, no one is suggesting that students should not take the ACT or any other exam seriously. But too often students internalize the mistakes they make on standardized tests ---or during their test preparations---in an unhealthy way. They wrongly believe their mistakes are a accurate reflection of their worth somehow. Try to link the method of POE to the healthier perspective that they are engaged in a process--not an intelligence test--to help get them the educational assistance they, and all people, need.
...Poe betters a student's probability of making a correct guess.
After all, POE is more than a process about feeling confident. Using it should, of course, lead to higher scores. And it will because the process is based on the laws of mathematical probability. If a student effectively deploys POE over the course of an entire multiple choice exam they will have reduced their sample space. That's a good thing! For example, every elimination on a question with 6 possible answers betters the chance of a correct guess in an easy to see countdown. With the first elimination, a 1 out of 6 guess becomes a 1 out of 5 guess. With the second correct elimination a 1 out of 5 guess becomes a 1 out of 4 and so on. In some cases students will be able to "countdown" to a 1 out of 2 guess. In a funny way, using POE is like being a smart gambler in Las Vegas--if such a thing makes sense;) A 50/50 game in Vegas is obviously much better than a 1 out of 6 roll of the dice game if the prizes are the same for each game. Long story short, use POE to improve your odds in the long run!
***A side note....When teaching POE to students it is often a good idea to have them think through the probability ideas involved. It can ground their process in a more solid understanding of why they are being asked to use this approach on a test. This richer understanding may grant them more control and ownership over the process and, again, enhance their overall academic confidence.
Look for more essential standardized skills for young learners in upcoming posts...!