Teach Test Strategies to Newcomers (ELLs)

Since ESL education and literacy programs receive government funding based on testing results, it is extremely important to ensure test results are as accurate as possible. As an adult ESL instructor, I want my students to score as high as they are able on their post tests. These high scores help to ensure the continuation of my local education program and its vital services.
Multiple choice tests are not common in many countries. Many ESL students refer to multiple choice tests as 'American tests'. In other countries, tests ask for the correct answer or a written essay. Middle and high school ELLs have missed learning the test taking strategies learned in elementary school. Adult ESL students, many highly educated, also benefit from learning test strategies. I recommend giving at least one practice test and reviewing it together as a class. Point out and teach different strategies during this review. I have taught professionals and professors from other countries who greatly appreciated learning these strategies.
Secondary and adult refugee students who have never attended school or have only a few years of education do not know how to take a test. For literacy and beginning ESL levels, I recommend giving a practice test at the end of each unit or every 2-3 weeks. This helps to get students familiar with taking tests and gives them much needed practice. It also helps to reduce their test anxiety. It is important to teach how to eliminate choices, make educated guesses, and explain why an answer is correct.
In conclusion, all English Language Learners benefit from learning basic test taking strategies. It will help them feel more confident and relaxed, avoid common mistakes, save time on timed tests, and score higher on their tests. Strategies for multiple choice reading tests include:
  1. READ with your EYES, not your mouth. You will read 3 to 4 times faster.
  2. Read the QUESTION FIRST, before reading the text or diagram.
  3. Look for KEY WORDS in the question.
  4. SCAN the paragraph or diagram for KEYWORD/S. If there are no keywords look for SYNONYMS (business = company).
  5. Read the sentence BEFORE, WITH, and AFTER the keyword/s.
  6. Pay attention to QUESTION WORDS. If it asks WHEN? Look for the date, day, or time. If it asks WHO? Look for a person, group, or company. If it asks HOW MUCH? Look for money or the word 'free.'
  7. If the question asks WHY? Or what is the PURPOSE, read the first sentence or first paragraph. These usually contain the answer.
  8. Think of the ANSWER in your mind before looking at the offered choices. This way the choices given on the test won't confuse you.
  9. Read ALL the possible ANSWERS.
  10. Eliminate the WRONG answers.
  11. You can usually eliminate answers with 'all', 'every', and 'none'.
  12. Make an educated GUESS if you are unsure of the correct answer.
  13. DON’T CHANGE your answer, usually your first choice is the right one.

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