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Test Taking Strategies for Special Ed Students

Help Your Students Succeed at High Stakes State Tests


Get comfortable: Test taking days are great days to relax dress standards. If your school has a uniform, you might try to convince the principal to relax the dress code and permit kids to wear their own clothing. You might even try a “pajama party” day so kids can come dressed really comfortably.

Start comfortable: Familiarize your students with standardized testing formats. There are lots of test preparation books you can use to familiarize your students. Get material at your student’s average reading level, so they are comfortable with the format and can succeed at their reading level. There may even be a preparation book for your state.

Teach Test Taking Strategies

Process of elimination. Show your students how to eliminate the answers that are clearly wrong, and go back and check for the correct answer.

Underlining important information. Check your state rules, but usually a child can underline important information in the reading selections. This does not come naturally to children with specific learning disabilities. You need to spend a lot of time teaching this ahead of time. What is important? Why?

SQ3R. A classic reading comprehension strategy, it works well for test taking.

  • S for Skim. Teach your students to look for underlined headings, for words in italics or bold face, to read the first sentences of paragraphs.
  • Q for Question: Model asking questions about the text. What was the selection about? Say it is about sailing. What makes the sailboat go? Who are famous sailors? Whatever . . .
  • First R – Read..
  • Second R - Review This is a good time to answer your questions.
  • Third R - Re-read.

Do the Easy Ones First. Teach your students to look through the items that they find easiest first. Do be sure they are filling the ovals correctly. This gives them more time to do the more difficult ones.

Mask the Test. Show the students how to cover one column with a paper so they are not overwhelmed by the amount of text, or so they can focus on the important stuff. You may also cut a window in a paper or file folder so the student can move the mask from question to question. A mask would also work well for students whose eyes wander and need help filling in the correct test bubbles.

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