Preparing For Standardized Tests — ANY Standardized Test
Lately, maybe because summer is coming (a time when people take tests to place into programs), we’ve gotten a lot of emails from customers wondering if we have specific prep materials for the test they are taking. Some, like Praxis, are common enough that we’ve developed a play list for them, while many others are more obscure.
But when it comes down to it, my advice for all math tests is the same, because all standardized math tests are pretty much the same: they ask multiple-guess questions about math, so you need to know math.
Simple, right?! Uh, no. But the point remains: they are all kind of the same, and you really do need to know the math on them. “Tricks” aren’t going to get you a high score if you can’t do fractions or percents or functions.
I mean, if you are taking a teachers’ exam to be able to teach up through pre-calculus, chances are you need to know pre-calculus yourself, right? But if you’re taking an exam to be able to teach middle school math, that’s not going to go all the way up through pre-calculus. So first things first, 90% of the game is you need to be comfortable with the material up through the level that the exam covers. Only then, once you basically know the math that’s going to be on the test, that you should start taking practice tests and making sure you understand the test format and get used to the number of questions, format of questions (for example, is “none of the above” always an option or not), whether they allow calculators, etc to prevent “unforced errors” on test day.
But ultimately, it’s a math test, so you need to know the math, and that’s where That Tutor Guy comes in!
Somehow – I think because of SAT prep companies, whose entire marketing campaign seems to be “don’t worry about the math, we’ll show you tricks!” – the whole world has been convinced that standardized tests don’t actually test what they are claiming to test: your ability to do math. But that’s really not accurate. In my opinion, even the much-criticized SAT (which I have a lot of experience prepping students for) actually is a pretty good math test! SAT prep will only move your score a little bit compared to whether or not you actually know the material covered. Good math students get way higher scores than poor math students. Period. Prep is just small swings.
So no matter which test you are taking, whether it’s to become a teacher or get into college or place into a college math course or join the military, you will get 90% of the way to your personal best score by reviewing the math. You just do practice tests to gauge whether you have reviewed sufficiently, and to reduce game-day test anxiety so that you don’t get stressed out or paniced before or during the test.
You’re probably going to be nervous the day of the test, so doing the practice tests and knowing that if you don’t know one question and it’s not going to ruin your score is really good to keep your edge and do your best. But for example if you haven’t reviewed equations of lines sufficiently, you’re going to be hurt, I don’t care how much “prep” you did!
Good luck on the test!