ELA Test Taking Strategies

Use these strategies to make you a better ELA test taker!

Always preview the test
Once your teacher says you may begin look through the test. Ask yourself:
  • How many stories?
  • What kinds of stories?
  • How many questions?
  • What kind of questions?
  • How will I need to answer? Multiple Choice, Fill in the Blank, Short Answer, Essay
Preview the passages too:
  • What is the title and/or subtitle?
  • What do the pictures tell you?
  • What do you already know about this topic?
  • What kind of passage is it, story, article, fable, poem, folk tale,...

Watch these Brain Pop movies about test taking:
USE THIS USERNAME: putnamvalley PASSWORD: pvms
Test Prep Movie
Test Taking Movie


Multiple Choice Tests
*A new twist on process of elimination that works better:
Cover the answer choices and come up with your own guess first. THEN look at the answers and pick the one that was closest to your guess.
*Don't forget to check back in the passage - small details that you won't remember can make a BiG difference in choosing the right answer!

Types of Multiple Choice Questions
  1. Always go back to the passage to find the sentence. Look in the sentences around it to find clues to the right answer.
  2. Read the sentence given with a blank in place of the word they want you to define - think of your own word!
  3. Look at the answer choices, which word is closest to the word you were thinking?

  1. Find the answer back in the passage by scanning for the key word in the question.
  2. Reread the whole paragraph with those key words.
  3. If you are still unsure, take your best guess and circle the number in your test booklet. With your extra time at the end, go back to the circled question, then reread the ENTIRE story to see if you can learn more to answer the question correctly.

Main Idea
  1. Use the title or subtitle as a clue.
  2. Look at the first few sentences or paragraph of the passage.
  3. Look for the key word or idea that is mentioned AT LEAST 3 times THROUGHOUT the ENTIRE passage. Think: what are they talking about in the beginning, middle, AND end.

  1. Even when the question says "What do you think," you have to use clues from the story to find the right answer. There is only ONE right answer.
  2. Use your own background knowledge to make a logical conclusion.
  3. REMEMBER: Story clues + Background knowledge = Inference (the answer!)

Listening on the ELA
On the state test there is a listening section in Book 2 for all grades. A story is read to you twice while you can take notes. Then you will have to answer questions based on the story.

Tips for taking notes:
  1. The first time you take notes leave spaces in between your notes. The second time you listen to the story, fill in any details you missed.
  2. Keep in my the 5Ws - Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How
  3. If you know the 5Ws of a story you know the most important details.
  4. Don't worry about spelling the names of people or places, they will be written in the directions or the questions for you later.
  5. Try to see what is happening in "3s." Three problems that happen, or three ways they tried to solve a problem. There is usually questions about those details.
  6. Try to make a picture/movie in your head that is filled with details (it's a rainy day, there is food on the floor). These visuals make the story easier to remember.

Short Answers on the ELA
There is usually a short answer question in the multiple choice section and the listening section. A short answer is really not that short. Follow these tips:
  1. Restate the question as you begin your answer so you are sure you are answering the question they have asked.
  2. For details use actual words from the passage! That is the only way to get full credit on these questions. Even if you have to quote a whole sentence it is ok!
  3. Fill up all the lines and then some! In this case more is better. Even if part of your answer is not quite right, you can still get full credit if you have enough correct details!
  4. Reread what you have written when you finish. Fix your answer for missing words and unclear sentences.
  5. Then before you move on to the next question, REREAD THE QUESTION you just answered!!!! This way you will be sure you answered the whole thing.
  6. Use your short answer checklist:

  • Topic sentence
  • Transition words
  • Details
  • Concluding sentence

Essays on the ELA (6th & 8th grade only)
Organizing an essay is easier than you think. Just follow this simple list when planning your essay:
Introduction paragraph - Use words from the question to introduce the reader to what your essay will be about. Only need to make it 2 -3 sentences
Body paragraph 1 - Use the first bullet as your topic sentence. Then use words DIRECTLY from the passage(s) as your details to support the topic.
Body paragraph 2 - Use the second bullet as your topic sentence. Then use words DIRECTLY from the passage(s) as your details to support the topic.
Body paragraph 3 - Use the third bullet as your topic sentence. Unless the third bullet says, "Use details from both passages..." then you don't need a body 3 paragraph!
Concluding paragraph - Use words from the question to and reword part of your introduction to let the reader know what you wrote about. Don't forget to use good concluding transition words and a little voice here!

Above all don't forget to reread the question when you have finished writing your essay, so you are sure you answered ALL parts. Also, reread your essay twice - once to revise the wording and once to fix capitals, periods, commas, etc. Remember you get two grades for the essays so it is worth rereading them many times!

Learn more about essays:Essay Movie

Editing on the ELA (5th and 7th grade only)
Some ELA tests have a separate editing passage. In this passage you will need to find mistakes in capitalization, punctuation, and grammar. Follow these steps:
  1. Read through the whole passage one time without changing anything. You will get a good idea of what the passage is about and the verb tense they are using.
  2. On the second reading through, start changing things you think are wrong.
  4. Some rules you need to know:
  • The first word in a sentence needs to be capitalized.
  • Names of people, places, and things need to be capitalized.
  • Names of books and stories need to be capitalized - except the little words *the, a, and, in,...*
  • The word I is always capitalized. - Listen to more about capitalization.
  • Sentences end with the correct punctuation, a period, question mark, or exclamation mark. Learn more about punctuation.
  • Commas are used to show when you are listing a series of things. "I like pizza, tacos, and pasta." The comma before the and is optional.
  • Commas are also used to combine sentences. "She is going to the concert, and I wish I could go too!"
  • Commas are used to show an introductory clause. "Whenever I am sick, I never miss a day of school."
  • Subjects and verbs need to agree. "The horse runs across the grass." NOT "The horse run across the grass." Learn more about subject verb agreement
  • Take out prepositional phrases when you are looking for the subject and verb to agree. Learn the prepositions by watching [[http: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxON8dc5g3U|Pepe and Petunia]]
  • Run-on sentences need to be separated into two sentences. Learn more about run-ons
  • Fragmented sentences need to be longer. Learn more about fragments
  • Apostrophes make a noun possessive. Play this game to review your singular and plural possessives

Practice editing by visiting this web site:[[http: http://www.eduplace.com/kids/hme/k_5/proofread/proof.htm|Power Proofreading]]
Learn more about parts of speech so you will know what you and your teacher are talking about when taking about words. Parts of Speech


Learn more about the ELA test