How to Motivate Students to Do Well on Testing

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Confronted by tests, many students flounder and forget concepts because their anxiety over test performance is so great. Motivating students involves giving them the preparation skills they need to succeed. Success is not the same for every student. Realistically, a failing student may not achieve a perfect score, but he can strive for a passing grade. Help students set realistic test goals, give them the study skills to learn as much as possible, and discourage students from competing against each other -- instead focusing on their individual best.

Things You'll Need

  • Grade book
  • Sample tests or pre-tests

Help Students Set Realistic Testing Goals

  • Give sample tests or pre-tests on identical or similar skills that will be measured on actual or standardized tests. This will give the teacher and the student a baseline against which to compare test scores. Test before and after a concept has been taught to measure improvement.

  • Allow the student to view the grade book to see the progression of her grades. Though students can improve their grades significantly with study, most students have consistent score ranges. It is nice to hope for an A when you consistently score Ds or Cs, but it is more realistic to strive for a B. In her article, "Motivating Students," Barbara Gross Davis writes that students are frustrated when they set unrealistic standards. Aiming for realistic test scores and not perfection relieves test anxiety.

  • Teach students their strengths and weaknesses based on the pre-test scores. According to Honolulu Community College, identification of a student's abilities allows them to know what they realistically can achieve on a test.

Teach Students Organizational Study Skills

  • Inform students exactly what concepts will be tested. Students need to know what is expected in order to learn and want to do well on tests. Guesswork and confusion only adds to test anxiety. For example: On the test you will need to define nouns, verbs and adjectives.

  • Divide subject material into individual concepts. Telling students to "read the chapter", doesn't focus on testing points. Narrow the content so the student focuses on what is important. For example, tell students, "Read the chapter and focus on the topic sentences."

  • Achieve mastery of one concept before moving the student to the next. If the student hasn't grasped what a noun is, don't move to verbs. Concept mastery will allow the student to know he understands the material and he'll be ready to test and perform to his level of success. Clearly label worksheets and assignments with the concept being studied.

Discourage Student Competition

  • Don't rely on games or whole class rewards to motivate students to do well on tests. This puts unfair pressure on students who learn at a slower pace or have learning disabilities. For some students, a C is their best and they should be rewarded for their success. If rewards are offered, reward students for individual results.

  • Give positive feedback before and after tests. According to Honolulu Community College, never publicly criticize a student's work or progress. Shame will not motivate success.

  • Reduce anxiety by encouraging the student to compete against herself to see improvement on tests, not with fellow students. Student competition creates pressure and anxiety which results in poor test performance.

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