Math Study Skills – Test Preparation Activity

November 23, 2010 at 6:33 am 1 comment

Today’s study skill blog is another spin-off of an idea that was discussed in my AMATYC workshop. It came from a group of 3 participants from Lake Sumter CC (FL), Fisher College (MA), and Cape Fear CC (NC). It is a different spin on my “Half-Test” that I previously blogged about.

Here’s how it goes:

  1. Give a practice half-test in class. This should be roughly half the length of the test you plan to give, and you should give the students half of the class period to complete their work. The questions should hit all of the areas that students traditionally struggle with.
  2. After you call time, give the students an answer key. You may wish to give a complete solution key, showing each solution in a step-by-step fashion.
  3. Give students some time to figure out what they did wrong on the problems they got incorrect.
  4. Have the students get into groups of 2 to 4 students and have them help each other with the problems they struggled with. Students can give pointers on how they approach the problems.


The half-test, on its own, has a couple of huge benefits. First, it puts students in a “test environment” without any test consequences. Many students freeze up on exams, and I feel that one cause is that they do not get a chance to experience the pressure that appears during a test. I also believe that many students do not freeze up, but just do not understand that they are unprepared for the test. The half-test will help your students to diagnose which problems will require further study – if they struggle with a problem they still have a day to straighten themselves out. Their focus should be on those types of problems they struggled with.

I really like the idea of putting students together in groups to go over the results and share advice for success. To be honest, I can’t believe I never thought of that! It not only helps the student who missed a problem, it also helps the student doing the explaining. A student who can explain how to do a problem will retain that knowledge.


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 –


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 –


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. eadurkin  |  November 23, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Thanks for this, George. I always give my kids a “practice test” activity, but never get them to go through it in groups afterwards. I shall try that next time.


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