By Evan Andeen
With less than a month to go before the next exciting round of AIMS testing begins, this seems like an ideal time to discuss testing tips and strategies. Why so early? Well, if you wait until the night before to start planning, it’s too late. In terms of standardized testing, I have extensive experience on both sides of the No. 2 pencil. As a high school and college student, I took just about every kind of test that has ever been conceived by the education industry. Being an educator has given me new perspectives on the test-taking process.
Your lab advisors and teachers will not no doubt give you more in-depth and in-person preparation for the big tests to come, so I have decided to focus on non-academic things you can do to put yourself in the best position to be successful:
1. Get some sleep. I realize this runs counter to every instinct the average teenager has, but it is a vital part of test preparation. Sleep not only gives the body a chance to rest from the physical exertions of the day, but recent studies suggest that it also allows the brain the down time it needs to process all the information you’ve taken in that day. And I don’t just mean get a good night’s sleep the night before the test. Go to sleep at the same time every night, get up at the same time every morning, at least during the school week. That’s right, you need a bedtime. No 3 AM texting, no scouring MySpace for friends’ most recent updates, no pre-dawn cram sessions.
2. Eat something. And by “something,” I mean actual food. This goes hand in hand with #1. If your typical day starts with a gallon of caffeinated liquid and a bag of Flamin’ Hot somethings, there is no food in your food. This is not just parental-style nagging, it is about the fuel that keeps your body and mind running at peak efficiency. If chemical stimulants are the only thing keeping you awake, you’ll crash when they wear off about two hours later … right in the middle of the testing session. Since you’re going to be getting up at a regular hour everyday (see tip #1), you’ll have plenty of time to make or purchase a more healthy breakfast. I suggest eggs, some kind of fruit, and a non-caffeinated beverage.
3. Slow down. The AIMS test is not a race. There are no bonus points available for finishing first. Some people work quickly, others are more deliberate. Take the time you need. Remember, once you’ve started the exam, you’ll have until the end of the school day to finish. Just because other students have finished quickly doesn’t mean they’ve passed. You’ll have the last laugh when you aren’t taking these tests again in the fall.
As a parting gift, I offer a bushel of quick tips for the first test on the horizon, AIMS Writing:
» write legibly
» use the dictionaries provided
» don’t use “2” instead of “to”
» don’t use “u” instead of “you”
» don’t use “4” instead of “for” or “four”
» no word you write should end in “z”, so no “cuz” instead of “cause” or “wuz” instead of “was”
» capitalize the names of people and places, including your name, and the pronoun “I”
» be ready to argue the point that produces the best essay, even if it’s not your personal opinion
» read the essay to yourself … if the sentence sounds wrong in your head, it probably needs editing.