Charles Gifford, a UNO professor who for 25 years has been lecturing students about taking standardized tests, spent an entire day at Southdown Elementary last week to teach students that something as simple as pacing themselves can boost a lagging test score.
In the days leading to the high-stakes test, teachers who encourage students to think of themselves as part of a school team also may help raise morale among nervous youngsters under increasing pressure to perform, Gifford
"Kids, this is your future -- testing," said Gifford
, who added that learning testing strategies early on will give students a competitive edge as they advance through their academic careers and beyond.
Tests are everywhere, Gifford
said, and accepting this fact will only benefit young students as they later are measured in everything from how they drive to which college they get into.
"These aren't dumb tests," said Gifford
."They're your future."
LEAP tests students in every academic subject, but math, language arts, science and social studies are the exam's central content areas.
The test includes a written essay as well as various fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice questions, all of which always have four answers from which to choose.
Fourth- and eighth-grade students pass the test by scoring "approaching basic" or better on the math and English portion.The five LEAP levels for the four subject tests are unsatisfactory, approaching basic, basic, proficient and advanced.
To avoid the hassle of failing the lengthy assessment test, Gifford
advised Southdown students to take advantage of the amount of time they have to complete the exam.He
also said students would be wise to remember those who finish early get no rewards.
"It's not like, ëOh, if I get done early, I get to go eat,' " he
said."You have all the time you need, and there are no extra points for finishing early.Don't go too fast."
As for the written portion of the exam, Gifford
said students should think of the essay as a story -- their duty is to tell the best parts.
"Everything you add is going to make you better than anybody else," said Gifford
Proofreading is another key element of LEAP success, as students have the luxury of double-checking their work because the test is not timed.When proofing their answers, students should think of themselves as detectives, said Gifford
"You can do well if you're cautious and careful," he
also taught students the art of guessing, saying that using the process of elimination on sticky questions can dramatically increase a student's chances of getting an answer right.
"You have to pay attention," he
said."If you get two more questions right, that will mean a lot for this school."
Here are some of Gifford's other test-taking strategies and advice:
)( The LEAP test does not get harder as you go along because easy questions are mixed with hard questions.If a student stumbles on a particular question, he
should mark it and move on instead of getting discouraged or stressed out.