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Test prep book about test taking--not about the test subject

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As homeschoolers, my sons haven't taken many tests at all--one every few years to satisfy PA state law for homeschoolers, where the scores don't even count.  It's just a hoop. The state doesn't even look at the scores.  They just want to know you took a test.


My son is preparing to take the SAT subject tests in World History and Biology.  These scores will count!  I already have decided to use Barron's books to review the content, but what about tips for actually taking a test?


Does Barron's cover that?  I can see the table of contents for an older version of Barron's, and I see that there are 2 pages dedicated to "How to Take the Test."  That seems kinda skimpy to me.


I have read threads where people say, "When my kids learned test taking strategies, they started acing their tests!"  But unfortunately no one said what those strategies are and I didn't think to ask at the time.


So...where does one go to find "test taking strategies"?  The only strategies I can come up with are the obvious ones:  skip the hardest questions and do them last, eliminate the obviously wrong answers quickly, ... and I think that's it.    


Surely there's more to it than that?  Is there a book out there about test taking strategies that is useful and helps people do well on these kinds of tests?  The tests are the first weekend of June, so we have a few weeks to prepare.

Edited by Garga_
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I find what was most useful for my kids is to think like the test writer. So don't think about English like English and instead go for the answer you think the test writer wants you to pick.


My kids aren't taking the sat biology exam this year but my oldest wants to take that in the near future. I am finding the book published by collegeboard useful as sat biology has a E and M choice while the rest of the subject tests do not have any choices. The book gives very clear instructions on how to take the biology test. I borrowed from my local library.


Link to the book https://www.amazon.com/Official-Subject-Biology-Study-College/dp/1457309203


I am also finding the collegeboard thick book on sat tests useful as my oldest is taking the Math 2 in June. It also covers instructions for taking more than one subject test on test day. There are many copies in the library as there isn't a new edition.


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Mostly, I think it's really a handful of common sense tips, combined with lots of practice so you start "clicking" with what the "trick" of the different types of questions are. So:


1. read through the entire question to make sure you

- UNDERSTAND the questions

- answer the question that is actually ASKED

2. eliminate obviously wrong answers

3. double check each time you bubble in an answer that you are marking the CORRECT bubble, and that you didn't get "off" somewhere

4. prioritize your time -- if you don't understand a question, circle the question, skip it, and continue with questions you do understand, and then come back and try for the ones you didn't understand at first -- BE SURE TO SKIP THAT BUBBLE ON THE ANSWER SHEET, TOO!

5. do the SAT question of the day every day as practice (for the SAT Reasoning test)


Other more general tips:

- for prepping, if you can use the materials from the test maker (i.e. College Board), you will have the best opportunity for seeing exactly what the questions will be like, and you can work on learning how the "test writer" thinks for taking the test

- in advance, be sure you have the RIGHT materials (i.e. allowable calculator, no. 2 pencil, snack in a clear plastic bag, etc)

- in advance, print out your admission ticket

- in advance, have the acceptable kind of I.D. ready

- get good rest the night before

- drink plenty of water the day before and on the day

- bring a sweater, or wear layers so you can adjust to room temp and stay comfortable



For more specific tips:


Test-taking tips and strategies for the SAT Reasoning Test


Test taking tips and strategies for the SAT Subject Tests:

overview from College Board

- from Sparknotes


   understanding the scoring (which helps you understand when to guess/when to skip questions)

   basic test-taking tips

   when to be wary about test questions




Garga, while I DO think there is merit in learning how questions are set up and what the "expectation" or "trick" of the different types of test questions, I also think there is only so much an individual student can do. Some are great testers, whether they actually know the material or are good at "intuiting" the pattern or right answer. Some are average, and get a bit of a boost with the practice and through practice see how questions are structured. And some students just are not good test-takers -- they get anxiety or stress, or just don't function in that way.


So, gently, do what you can reasonably do as far as practice and prep, and then let it go. What happens, happens. Disappointing test scores are not the end of the world, and students with low scores -- or even NO scores, or only an average ACT/SAT score -- still get into college. Or, they find a work-around, like going to community college for 2 years and transferring. Or working a few years and saving, and then going to college. Or discovering that their vocation doesn't require college at all. There are MANY MANY paths, and test scores are NOT the sole determining factor for which path your student lands on.  :grouphug:

Edited by Lori D.
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I have a friend who worked helping people with test prep and she would write guides to help them with their specific tests. She gave advice like this, "If one of the answers is very complicated, so that you barely even understand what it means, it's never the right answer. The test maker was running out of options as answers and made something up to fill in the space." (Well, she wrote it better...I'm going from memory here...and her advice was good, her students would pass after they went to her class/read her book.)


She prepped people who were getting their teaching certification and told them, "If the answer has the idea "I will teach the students" in it, it's wrong. The answer will be something about "I will facilitate while the children learn."


So sometimes her advice was general like the first paragraph above, "test makers sometimes write fancy answers because they're trying to come up with something to write." And sometimes her advice was specific to a certain test, like the second paragraph about the test for teachers and their certificates. (Again, she wrote it all much better than I'm remembering.)


I'm looking for that kind of stuff. I know to tell my kids to "think of how the test maker wants you to answer," but how are they supposed to know what that is without all the years of test taking that most kids take? But in my above example, my friend gave concrete examples of how to think like a test maker. And when you see an overly complicated answer to a question, it's probably something the tired test maker had to make up just to have choices for you to elimate when you took the test.


I'm looking for concrete advice about how to understand what test makers are looking for when you take a test, I guess.

Edited by Garga
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Think like the SAT



In the intro to How To Think Like the SAT Test Writer, it says the book "...will introduce you to numerous analytic techniques... about 15% of the material is dedicated to studying how the questions are constructed Knowing how the problems are written and how the test writers think will give you useful insight into the problems and make them less mysterieous."


The book is written for the OLD SAT, so I don't know how relevant it will be to the current SAT test.


Also, again, this may be great if this is the kind of prep material that clicks for your student. If your student does not think in these ways, then this may end up being more confusing than helpful. See sample pages here to decide for yourself. :)

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Hmm. I may have found why there's not a lot about test taking strageties for the subject tests. This article says that those tests are pretty straightforward and you don't need a lot of strategy to take them.




While I have no personal familiarity with the SAT Subject tests, I am inclined to agree -- they are testing the facts, the body of knowledge, around the particular subject. My understanding is that the SAT Subject tests are like the "final exam" for a year-long course. So, more factual.



It is the SAT Reasoning (and the similar ACT) that can be tricky to "unpack" the Critical Reading questions and either a student "clicks" with figuring that out -- or not. (The Math is more about whether or not you understand how to arrive at the solution to the problem, so much more factual.) The link I provided in my post above is for the SAT Reasoning test, not the SAT Subject tests.


If you're feeling really uneasy about your student's progress with the prep and practice tests (whther SAT Subject now, or SAT Reasoning later on), you might consider finding a tutor who is very knowledgeable about the particular test your student will be taking, and the tutor could walk your student through any tips and strategies, or look over the practice tests and see what exactly your student is getting tripped up on to help address that with a specific fix.


Good luck, Garga! :) And  :grouphug: Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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