Test Review And The Half Test

September 21, 2010 at 9:45 am Leave a comment

My new arithmetic class has reached the time for their first exam. I planned out a 2-day period to help them learn how to prepare for an exam. This study skill is clearly of high value to students who have struggled with mathematics as much as these students have.

Review Session – Day One

On the first day of review we began by brainstorming a list of the material we have covered. I started with the main topics – number line, place values, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. We then moved on to the types of problems we did in each of these main topics. By reflecting on the problems we have done the students have learned how to take ownership of this process, as well as realizing how important this reflection is. They used their notes, worksheets, and homework to help build the list.

Once we finished building the list, I opened my MyMathLab gradebook and ran an Item Analysis on a review quiz they took last week. I asked the students to determine which type of problems we needed to work on. They noted that the problem areas seemed to be under three main topics: writing a number using digits, writing a number using words, and rounding whole numbers. As a class we went back over these ideas, getting students to share their knowledge with each other. I then had the class retake the quiz and I made my way around the classroom answering questions as they came up. The scores, not surprisingly, improved from their first attempt.

Half Test – Day Two

On the second day, I began by giving a half-test. (Click here to see a previous blog about the half-test.) At this point they’ve seen me work enough problems, and watching me go through problems one more time might not be so helpful. I wanted to put them in a test situation (no resources) without test consequences. So often students will take a test and tell me “I know all of this material, but I just blanked out.” This may be true for some students, but for the most part these students do not realize how much they were relying on their resources, were not used to the actual stress of taking an exam, and were not working quickly enough. The half-test will diagnose their issues.

Here’s how I give the practice test.

  • Write a varied practice test that will take half of a class period.
  • After the students have finished, either give out a sheet with solutions or go over the solutions on the board.
  • Have students determine whether they are working quickly enough.
  • Have students determine which subjects/problems will require further study and spend the remainder of the time answering questions.

Again, the main idea is to put students in a test-like situation prior to the test. You can never tell how you will respond until you experience the feeling of walking the tightrope without a net. For a student with anxiety, it gives them a chance to experience that feeling, then focus on techniques to overcome it. This also clearly helps students to determine where their weeknesses are while they still have time to study and prepare for the exam.

I only use this activity once a semester. After that students can do this on their own prior to all subsequent exams.


Learning how to prepare for a test is one tool that is missing from the toolbox of many students. This review period has shown my students some effective ways to prepare, but just like with any strategy the students will need to take ownership and apply these skills on subsequent tests. I am expecting this exam to go really well and will share the results in a future blog.

Do you have any activities to help students learn how to prepare for tests? Do you use an innovative technique for helping students to prepare?  Please share by leaving a comment, or reaching me through the contact page at my web site – georgewoodbury.com.


I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Tuesday I post an article related to Math Study Skills on my blog. If there’s a particular study skill you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website – http://georgewoodbury.com.


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