Testing season is well underway across the country. In Illinois, our ELL’s finished taking the ACCESS test in February, which measures their improvement and proficiency levels in English. They are now moving on to the PSAT or SAT, which measures their college readiness. This is an exciting time for kids to be thinking about their future, but it may also be a time of high stress due to their lack of experience taking standardized tests
in the United States. The pressure they feel from their parents, teachers and their peers to perform well can take its toll.
One of the strategies I use in class is to have kids take at least 3-4 reading passage practice tests in class, a month prior to taking the test. This makes them feel comfortable with the way the test looks and how it is structured. We read the passages together and go over the answer choices, so students become familiar with the type of language and terminology used in the questions and answers. Many of our students, for example, may be unfamiliar with academic language or what the questions are asking them to answer. As educators we could be very instrumental in helping them navigate this language..
I also offer some recommendations to ease some of their worries. These include:
- You are more than a score. Your score doesn’t tell the whole story about who you are as students and colleges take this into consideration.
- Try your best, and, if you are not happy with your score, you can take the test again.
- You will be able to get into a college regardless of your score.
- Read for pleasure. Patterns of language and vocabulary are learned through reading.
- Take a full practice test prior to taking the actual test, so you become familiar with all of the sections.
These may seem like logical suggestions, but to our ELL kids these strategies could help ease some of the stress they may be experiencing before the test-taking season. The better prepared they are in understanding the purpose behind the SAT and the format of these tests the less anxiety they may feel during testing season. Tests can be an area where students feel challenged, but many of our Super ELL’s show tremendous growth and are successful no matter how difficult these tests may be for them. So many of our students go on to college and are great success stories. These challenges make them more resilient to the obstacles they will overcome in life.