Sunday, March 7, 2010

TAKS Time: Watch Out for the Test Traps

TAKS testing is upon us again. The 4th grade writing test has already been administered March 3rd. The majority of the testing is in April. I like to know what tests my child will take and when they will be administered. I went to this TEA website and downloaded the 2009-2010 school year testing calendar.

You can administer previously released TAKS tests to your child if you wish. You go to this other TEA website for tests and answer keys. Whatever grade your child is in, there are four sets of tests available. Before you print a test, you might show the PDF file to your child and ask if those test questions have already been used in class. Why print something and end up throwing it away? The teachers use these tests in class but they usually don't have the time or need to use every test.

I like to administer an old TAKS test to my child because I want to know what my child is facing.

I break up the test into parts so it is not a burden. I exmine the problems that get marked wrong according to the answer key. Aside from mistakes in subject matter, it is important to coach a child on the art of test taking. There are traps in the TAKS tests. The most prevalent traps are the "false attractor" and the "most correct answer" traps.

The false attractor trap is an answer that is almost correct. It looks like the correct answer, but has a tiny mistake, usually at the very end of the answer. This trap is usually inserted before the correct answer to lure your child into a mistake on the test. It is sad to see your child correctly work a math problem and then get tricked into selecting the false attractor. My recollection is that math problems use the false attractor.

The most correct answer trap is very devious. There will be two correct answers. You will see this in verbal answers, usually not in math answers. The test writers will claim that one answer is more correct than the other. If there is a strategy for a most correct answer, perhaps it is the answer with more information. The test writers are sometimes wrong. Do not be surprised if you cannot understand why the test writers like their most correct answer better than the most correct answer you and your child both agree upon.

If you want to help your child with the TAKS testing, I hope this helps.

Robert Canright
Former Math Teacher
Candidate for PISD Board of Trustees, Place 1

PS: Here is a modestly entertaining video about the TAKS test from Irving High School
Here is I Failed the Science TAKS Test for some light humor.
The TAKS Ninjas is a bit long, but it humorously provides test taking advice.

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