Troop: AZ Merit test season calls for tips, best practices

Posted 4/7/21

Standardized testing season can be a stressful time for students even under normal circumstances.

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Troop: AZ Merit test season calls for tips, best practices


Standardized testing season can be a stressful time for students even under normal circumstances.

But, during a pandemic? Students will need every edge they can get.

Just as schools have had to adapt and innovate over the past year, it’s important that Arizona students strategize for success on the AzM2 standardized test this spring. Of course, make sure your child is well-rested and has a good breakfast the morning of the test. But there is much more you can do.

Consider these tips:

  • Develop a virtual study group with close family friends. Practice makes perfect. Did you know the Arizona Department of Education makes sample practice tests available online? Not only does this allow students to get a feel for the format and content of the real thing, it also provides useful scoring guides to give students an understanding of how they’ll be assessed.
  • Be in the moment.We all know how tough it can be to sit still for hours at a time, especially for children.  It’s important that students continue listening to their minds and bodies during the test. Reminding your child they’re in control can have a positive impact on their mindset, attitude and test-taking experience. Something as simple as a brief mid-test break to stand up and stretch or get a drink of water can make all the different in helping a student regroup and refocus.
  • Challenge your child to explain their thinking.Anyone can memorize information, but students should also be able to explain their thinking process. When quizzing your child, ask questions like: “How do you know that? Tell me how you got that answer.”
  • Read, annotate, summarize and reread. When taking the reading exam, students should read the passage with the question in mind and highlight or note key words or details along the way. Summarizing the content is also helpful and could help students think critically about what they read. Students should ask themselves, “If I had to tell someone in one sentence what this passage is about, what would I say?” Also, encourage your child to always reread the text, even if they feel absolutely sure they know the answer the first time. Better safe than sorry!
  • Find the “smarty” answer! Assessments will generally have three types of options: the “Smarty” response, which is the correct answer; the “Trickster” option, which sounds like it could be correct, but isn’t (don’t be fooled!); and the last option, which is clearly wrong. As your student works through practice problems, have them label each response and ask them to explain their reasoning.
  • Build up reading stamina. The amount of content on tests can be overwhelming, especially for younger students. Practicing fluent reading prior to the test will your child build stamina and improve their engagement with text. Ask them to read a passage aloud from beginning to end without stopping, and use a stopwatch to record how long it takes them. While state tests are usually not timed, this is a good way to help students stay focused throughout the testing period.

Finally, remember: standardized assessments are not a contest. Rather, they are a valuable opportunity to evaluate a student’s strengths and shortcomings, and to monitor and adjust accordingly. Encourage your child to do their best, but try not to stress. If this is their first time taking the test, they’ll have plenty more opportunities in the years ahead.

Good luck.

Dr. Michael Troop is the Deputy Superintendent of Legacy Traditional Schools.