Standardized Test Tip Part 3-Verbal Reasoning for Smart Test-Taking

We have been looking at habits you can help your child develop as he does his homework that will improve his overall comprehension and test-taking.

These habits can be applied anytime the student is dealing with written instructions or questions. Taking a little bit of extra time to work on these 4 habits until they become automatic for your child is a valuable investment in his thinking skills, reasoning, and test-taking success.

  1. Practice the habit of reading and really thinking about the instructions.

  2. Read and visualize the questions and answer choices.
  3. Analyze the question: What type of question is it and what type of response is required

The fourth habit is particularly useful for multiple-choice questions.  It involves higher-level thinking and verbal reasoning, but can be applied to questions from first grade level through college and above.

Students come up against test questions that they find confusing or that they are unsure of everyday.  With this habit, we are trying to increase their ability to think through the information and choices logically so that they can make a reasonable response or a best guess.


  1. Analyze exactly what is being asked and what response is most logical based on the wording, vocabulary, and answer choices.
    1. Read and visualize the question.
    2. What exactly is the question asking?
    3. Pay attention to vocabulary and specific wording.
    4. Read and visualize each answer choice.
    5. Which answer choices can be eliminated and why?
    6. Analyze remaining choices to see which best answers the question.  How did you come to this conclusion?

Here are two examples of the kind of thinking process you want to help your child apply to answering questions:


Some Native Americans had to follow buffalo for food. What word would best describe these people:

  1. gatherers
    b.  warriors
    c.  hunters
    d.  farmers

Answer: c


Imaging the question and each choice should help the student easily choose the correct answer. If the student gets stuck deciding between “hunters” and “warriors,” ask the student what she pictures for a warrior. What does a warrior do? Guide the student in recognizing that warriors do use weapons, but the purpose of the weapons is not for obtaining food.



Matter is anything that takes up space or has weight. What would be two ways to prove that air is made up of matter?

  1. Blow up a balloon.
    b.  Fill a jar with air.
    c.  Blow on a feather and watch it move.
    d. Listen to music.

Answer: a and c


Notice the words “two ways” and “prove” in the question.

Choice d can be eliminated right away as it is completely irrelevant.

You can see that air takes up space as a balloon expands. Filling a jar with air does not have the same impact because you can’t actually see proof that the air takes up space. Blowing on a feather and seeing it move shows that air has weight since it can move something.

Students often do poorly on tests because they do not read questions carefully, do not answer them completely, or do not read all of the choices before deciding. When they are unsure of the content, they often skip the item or make a random guess. By visualizing, analyzing vocabulary, and eliminating unreasonable answers, they increase the likelihood of answering correctly.

Keep working on these concepts throughout the year and they will become automatic.

By |2018-02-27T08:58:03+00:00February 27th, 2018|ACHIEVE Program, Chatter Blog, Parent information|0 Comments

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