One of the most common things we have to help our students with here at The Study Hall is answering critical reading questions correctly on standardized tests.  We have identified one of the major reasons and have a remedy for it.

When students take tests at school, they have studied for the test (hopefully) and know what the right answers look like.  They search for and “hunt” the right answer choices.  

The problem they encounter with critical reading on standardized tests is that standardized tests require students to look for the "best answer."  Before you leave this page laughing, saying that obviously you want the best answer, read on.

The way tests interpret that phrase is one of the keys to standardized tests. This simple phrase gives them significant latitude. They can give the student five rotten choices.  The student looks at the choices and doesn't feel any are good. The student is right; none are very satisfactory.

The other thing this phrase does, and this is more frustrating, is allow them to give students two correct answers. They look at answers and say that "I could make a case for either of these two.”

The only way to consistently choose the “best” answer is to look at the answer choices and  eliminate answer choices.  This way students won't be caught up defending an answer choice, rather they look for the weakness of each of the answer choices and leave the best choice standing.  

Eliminating answer choicest is what we emphasize when we are working with students to improve their performance on standardized critical reading tests.  It takes practice, but we have found that this technique really works.  And the good news is that this technique applies to alll standardized tests.  I have had graduate students come back and say they used it on tests in college and after.

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