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5 Tips for Test Preparation for English Language Learners

Do you have ELL students who are going to be sitting tests? It can be difficult for schools to equip ELLs with the right tools and experience in the run-up to formal tests, however there are a number of ways you can prepare and support them to ensure they stand the best chance of success. We’ve listed five top ways here, which will build your students’ confidence, as well as their knowledge base!

1. Focus on the strategies for test-taking 

Depending on where students have come from, some of them may not have had a great deal of experience of exams. They may, for example, have limited knowledge of using technology, which can obviously be an issue if formal assessments are taken on the computer. For students who are familiar with testing, you may not focus on test-taking strategies so much, but ELLs often need more practice, and can find it hard to speak up to voice their needs. Support them by building their confidence and focus on the way assessments are carried out. Take practice tests, go through the technology needed to do them, help them manage their time effectively and spend time teaching them to take the right notes to revise effectively.

2. Consider your formative assessment data

The formative assessments you do in your classroom are a great place to start when preparing for tests and supporting students’ progression. They can be delivered in so many different ways and are a great way of quickly checking for understanding. These can be more effective than measuring understanding through summative assessments as you can make use of oral and project-based methods, and just as with summative routes, the feedback and results from tests can still be used to identify gaps in understanding, which when addressed can help bolster performance in more formal tests.

3. Utilize technology

There are online solutions which, as well as providing curriculum-aligned teaching and learning materials, can directly help ELLs with test preparation. As a teacher using these, you will be able to see data in real time that will help you identify knowledge gaps and inform where to target your instruction. It’s important that you understand the reports these solutions provide and how they are structured so that you can get the most from them.

Solutions such as Edmentum International’s EducationCity and Exact Path are ideal for helping ELL students with test practice and preparation, as they are great for supporting personalized learning. In fact, Exact Path has been awarded a WIDA PRIME (Protocol for Review of Instructional Materials for ELLs (PRIME) V2 Correlation. This means we’re part of a distinguished group of online learning providers who have successfully been through the multicriteria analysis set for them. Read more about our partnership with WIDA here.

4. Practice “Academic English” 

There may be some ELLs who are fluent speakers of English but struggle with reading or writing. Compared to spoken English, academic English is much more formal and is essential for the workplace or success at school.

It’s a good idea to make sure you provide opportunities that help ELLs become familiar with academic English to build their confidence, especially in the run-up to tests. This could involve increasing their exposure to more formally written texts, or just practicing more test papers.

5. Encourage ELLs to understand the significance of tests

In some countries and cultures, assessment is more important than in others, so you may need to discuss the importance of tests with your ELLs. Explain to them and, if possible, their parents what the tests are for and why they are significant, so that they dedicate the necessary time and effort to their preparation.

At the end of the day, it’s really important to support your ELLs, as you do your other students, in the lead up to tests so they feel prepared and comfortable. The tips above may help in some instances, but what is certain is that the support you ELLs may look very different to what you offer your native English-speaking students.

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