When you’re preparing for a big, important test like the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT), it’s important to determine a clear study and preparation plan. You can’t just show up on test day unprepared – that would be like going to take your final driver’s license test without practicing your driving beforehand.
For years, students have relied on classic study aids like flashcards to ensure they’ve mastered the vocabulary and concepts necessary to conquer the test. However, these tools clearly lack one key quality: they’re not directly preparing you for the test. Sure, cramming vocabulary and math concepts might help you feel better prepared on exam day, but will all those flash cards help you understand what you really need to do on the test?
Practice tests are valuable because they don’t just tell you what will or could be on the test; they force you to engage with material in the exact same way you’ll need to on test day. Unlike flashcards or other forms of review, taking a high-quality practice test actually simulates the rigors and expectations of test day, helping you practice not just test material, but also testing skills.
Using Practice Tests Effectively
If you’re someone who likes to study alone, simply reading the test closely and engaging with each answer choice will be some of the best preparation for test day you can get. Use your reading comprehension skills to ensure you…
- Understand the format used for your test or exam
- Determine which kinds of questions are most common on the test
- Figure out what kind of skills or knowledge the test is targeting
For analytical thinkers, the opportunity to work with an answer key can be one of the best parts of a high-quality practice test. Using the key, test takers can ensure they know which kind(s) of questions they’re already prepared for, and which skills require some targeted review to boost scores.
If you prefer studying in a group, there are even more meaningful ways to use a practice test. Here are a few methods students have found especially helpful:
- Read each question together in your group. Discuss the question to ensure everybody understands, then take a silent minute for everybody to choose an answer. Once everyone’s done, go around the group and discuss how and why everybody chose their answer.
- Start with the answer key and discuss the test “backwards.” This entails reading questions together, then immediately turning to the answer key to determine the correct response. Once you and your group know the answer, look at the other choices and analyze/discuss why the answer indicated by the key is the best choice.
- Take the practice test silently and individually, then swap answers with a group mate and correct each other’s tests with written feedback. This helps each test taker gain valuable perspective by seeing the logic and thought process that others used to answer challenging questions.
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