The Best Test Prep Tips for Upper Elementary

I think most teachers would agree that the best test prep is simply quality instruction over time using a spiral review. Day to day consistent teaching, from the beginning of the year, until the big test, is the best way to have students do well on the required tests.

Having said that, I do want to share some of my favorite test prep tips for upper elementary students, since having students prepare for standardized tests is helpful in several ways.

How does test prep help students?

  • Increases student confidence.
  • Reduces some of the test-taking anxiety.
  • Helps remind students of previously learned concepts.

1. Make Test Prep Fun!

Forget about those dry worksheets. Find test prep activities that kids really enjoy. Try to get them up and moving and make sure to vary what you include.

I love using task cards for Scoot, doing whole-class Jeopardy Games, having kids do digital activities and more! These interactive experiences can make your kids actually excited about test-prep because to them, it feels like just a game!

Click here if you’d like to read about test prep ideas that are easy to implement, free, and super fun!


2. Make Sure to Teach Test Tip Strategies

We always have a discussion about test creators and how they design tests. I like to use pre-made samples of questions, put them on the SmartBoard and go over them as a class. After learning the tips below, we can examine them with our new “test-creator” eyes.

Here are some of the multiple-choice strategies we talk about:

A. Read ALL the directions. Then read them AGAIN! (sounds simple, right?)

B. Read a question and PREDICT the answer before reading any of the choices. Then look to see if your answer (or something close to that) is there.

C. Eliminate the “obvious” wrong answer as a possible choice. There’s usually one outlier for each question that you can immediately dismiss. This narrows down the choices and increases the probability of choosing the correct answer.

D. Depending upon the type of test the kids are taking, they might want to either make sure to answer EVERY question or to skip those they don’t know. For some tests, there’s no penalty for guessing, so for those tests, you would, of course, encourage kids to make their best guess and complete the entire test.

E. Don’t change answers if in doubt. Studies show that the first guess is statistically proven to be more accurate than a changed one.

F. No matter what kind of test format, if you have extra time (and are able), go back and double-check your answers.


3. Make Sure Students are Comfortable With the Testing Format

If students are using traditional paper tests with bubbles, they need to know how to correctly fill in the bubble. They need to know how to erase (keeping in mind tip “E” above) and they need to be careful not to get their numbering off track (eeek!).

Of course, students who are doing online tests need to have basic computer skills in order to navigate through the material smoothly too. 

4. Try to Continue Regular Classroom Procedures and Routines as Much as Possible

If you are able to do math test prep during math time and reading test prep during reading time, that is ideal. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that smoothly.

You’ll want to make sure though, that even if your schedule may not be exactly the same during the school day, that you continue to set expectations for each activity and that kids still know to follow the same classroom rules and procedures. If not, you may see an increase in behavior issues (and nobody wants that!).


5. Don’t Overdo Test Prep

You’ll want to give students a chance to review some of the more difficult concepts they’ve covered in the school year so far. You don’t, however, want to do test prep all day every day for an extended period of time.

Also, keep in mind that trying to remind kids of concepts they’ve learned is different than trying to introduce new things as part of test prep. Cramming with brand new concepts won’t be as effective as using test prep as a review.


6. Eliminate Homework the Week Before and the Week of Testing

I know that some teachers find value in giving homework, while others don’t. Some teachers are required to give a certain number of minutes each week, while others aren’t.

Finally, I would strongly suggest that if you normally require homework though, that you give students some time off. Kids can be overwhelmed by the test itself and in my opinion, they will be more prepared if we can reduce their stress a bit.


7. Be Positive

Our attitudes are contagious and it’s easy for kids to pick up on any negativity or anxious feelings we have about the testing process.

Make sure to:

A. Keep an upbeat attitude about test prep and introduce it as if it’s the most fun thing in the world. Presentation is everything!

B. Don’t say anything about the test that’s negative. Don’t let them know you feel a certain way about it…if you do. You don’t want to decrease their motivation or sabotage their performance on the test by telling them anything negative related to the test.

C. Tell your students that you believe in each one of them! You can let them know that it’s okay not to know every answer or to get some answers wrong but you know they’ll do their best and that makes you proud! High expectations matter.


8. Plan a Post-Test Celebration of Some Kind

Depending upon your school food rules…maybe you can have an ice cream sundae party, a popcorn and a movie party, or just bring in some cupcakes!

How about a Pajama Day Friday, a kickball game against another class party (with popsicles at the end). You could even borrow some of the PE teacher’s unique stash of toys and have an extra-long recess!

Those extra things we plan, (even the most simple) mean something to kids and help create positive memories as a classroom community.


If you’d like more ideas about specific test prep activities, you might like to read another post I wrote.

Click here to read Fun and Effective Test Prep Activities.


Want some fun ways to use task cards? You’ll find lots of ideas you can use for test prep too!

Click here to read 16 Ways to Use Task Cards


Lastly, using quality test prep materials is so important!

Here are a few of my favorite resources for test prep or any time:
Digital Reading Units for Google Slides or PowerPoint: (ALL Reading Standards)


Grammar Games: Print and Digital (30 Games in each, ALL Grammar Standards)


Math Task Cards: (30 Sets of Task Cards in each, ALL Math Standards)


Thanks so much for stopping by!

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