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  • Writer's pictureWrite and Read (Laura)

Painless Test Prep for Middle and High School English

Making sure that your ELA students are ready for state standardized tests can be stressful. Having worked in a failing Title I school about to be taken over by the state, I understand the pressure that’s placed on English teachers when it comes to standardized tests. Here are some strategies to get your middle and high school students ready for standardized tests while keeping your sanity.

A row students look down, focused on the test in front of them. Bold text at the bottom says, "Painless Test Prep for Secondary ELA."

Test Prep Tip 1: Use student data to focus on areas of need.

By using data to prepare for testing, you can hone in on students’ areas of struggle and bypass the skills your students already know. Although using data can sound daunting, it can actually save you time when preparing your students for standardized tests because you know where to focus your energy.

Test Prep Tip 2: Don’t cram all of your test prep into the weeks leading up to the test.

You can prep for state standardized testing while still following your pacing guide. Incorporate needed skills into daily bell ringers, create mini lessons for difficult standards, and reteach content students struggled with before moving on to new content. 

A girl's hand is holding a pencil to bubble in answers on a standardized test.

Test Prep Tip 3: Make the test look familiar.

Throughout the year, incorporate assessments that resemble the format of your state test, and utilize high frequency test words throughout your instruction. You can often find released exams from previous years on your state’s Department of Education website. Look at the format of the questions, the vocabulary used, and the wording of the directions. Those are all things you can mimic on class assessments. 

Pages of a nonfiction text structures and features escape room are laid out on a desk with bright construction paper.

Test Prep Tip 4: Make test prep fun.

If your test prep consists of worksheet after worksheet, you won’t be able to hold your students’ attention, and they won’t learn the content they need. When you can, incorporate games, hands-on activities, or escape rooms. It’s possible for students to review standards while still having fun.  

A poster sized letter is taped to a window. It reads, "Dear students, Do your best today, and don't give up. You've been preparing for this all year, and you're ready. I believe in you! Love, Ms. Daly."

Don’t forget that testing can be stressful for students too. Remind your students to give it their all because they are capable and well prepared. Personally, I like writing my students a letter of encouragement, blowing it up on the poster maker, and hanging it by the testing area. Find a way to encourage your students to do their best that fits your style. 

Test Prep Resources:



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