Study Guide

Test-Taking Strategies

This section of the study guide is designed to help candidates:

Understanding the Structure and Content of the Test

The knowledge, skills, and abilities assessed on the test are described in the test framework that is available on the program website. To view or print the test framework, click "Prepare" on the website, and select your test field.

Test Framework

The test framework is based on relevant academic standards. The framework is organized for structural and reporting purposes into subtests (for the Elementary Education Multi-Content assessment) or domains (for all other MEGA tests). Each subtest or domain contains a set of one or more competencies. Each competency is further defined by a number of descriptive statements. These components are described below.

Diagram of test framework structure.

(Test): Missouri General Education Assessment
(Competency): 0011 Understand the fundamental concepts, principles, and theories of physics, geology, and astronomy.
(Descriptive Statement): demonstrate knowledge of the hierarchical structure of the universe; the nature of the solar system and the universe; the basic motions of bodies in space; and interactions of the sun, moon, and Earth and the effects of these interactions on Earth systems.
(Test Item): The range between high and low tides changes significantly over time. This change in the tidal range is primarily the result of:

  1. the variable effect of seasonal winds on coastal waters.
  2. the variability of Earth's gravitational field caused by Earth's elliptical orbit.
  3. the seasonal shifts in the tilt of Earth's axis.
  4. the additive effect of the gravitational pulls of the sun and moon.

Plan a Course of Study

Step 1: Read the test competencies for the test(s) you are preparing to take.

Reading the test competencies will help you familiarize yourself with the structure and content of the tests, and begin assessing your degree of preparedness to take the test. The test competencies are the only source that specifies the knowledge, skills, and abilities assessed by this test.

Step 2: Read the sample questions, attempt to answer them, and review the correct response provided.

This will introduce you to the types of questions you will see on the actual test and help you understand how the questions are aligned to the competencies. The sample multiple-choice questions were developed in conjunction with the questions that appear on actual tests and are the best example of the types of questions used on the actual test. Thus, answering these questions will give you valuable practice in answering questions like the ones you will see on the actual test. After reading a question, you may want to reread the competency to see how the question is aligned to the competency. This may help you understand what items associated with particular competencies might look like.

After answering a sample question, look at the correct response provided. If you answered the question incorrectly, you may need to do some additional studying of the content covered by that competency.

Step 3: Take the practice test (when available).

The practice test includes a wider variety of items that will help you to become more familiar with the types of items that may appear on the test and the depth and breadth of the content covered by the test. You will also be able to practice your test-taking skills, and further assess your degree of preparedness to take the test.

Practice tests are designed to simulate the actual testing experience. Each practice test contains the same type of questions as can be found on an actual test, as well as any applicable reference materials (e.g., math formulas page) that will be available on the test, and, if applicable, sample constructed-response assignment(s). The practice tests are designed to be representative in form, content, and difficulty to an actual test. An answer key is provided that lists the correct responses and indicates the specific test competency to which each test question is matched.

The practice test is available on the program website; select "Prepare" and choose your test.

Set aside a significant block of time to take the practice test. If possible, take the sample test questions in a quiet room to simulate the testing environment. Monitor your time and try to pace yourself so that you finish the practice test within the amount of time allotted for the actual test. You may want to skip any questions you have difficulty with; mark these questions and come back to them later. When you have finished, use the answer key and the sample responses to the constructed-response assignments, if any, to assess how you might perform on the actual test. Based on your performance, identify your areas of strength and weakness (note that the answer key also indicates to which competency each question is matched), and assess your overall degree of preparedness to take the test. If you skipped any questions, note the competencies to which they were matched, and plan to do some additional studying in those areas.

Step 4: Develop a study plan to focus your studies.

Before you take each required test, the best preparation is to identify 1) your areas of strength and weakness (the sample questions in the study guide and practice test may provide you some idea of the areas on which you wish to focus); 2) any content in the test framework with which you have had difficulty in the past; and 3) any other content you have not yet mastered. You should then study those areas systematically and effectively.

While concentrating your studies on your areas of weakness, you should also be sure to do some additional preparation addressing the content covered in the other competencies. Remember, your score on each test is based on the total number of questions that you answer correctly; therefore, improvement on any competency of the test will improve your total score on the test.

Suggested Study Method

One study method that many students have found to be effective is "PQ4R," or "Preview, Question, Read, Reflect, Recite, Review." After reviewing the competencies and descriptive statements, locate appropriate study materials such as textbooks; then apply the six steps of the PQ4R method as described below.

  1. Preview: Scan the section headings and subheadings of the chapter or article you wish to study. Read the introduction or overview section as well as the summary section. This initial step can provide a good foundation on which to build your knowledge of a topic or skill.
  2. Question: Based on the appropriate test competencies and your preview of the study materials, think of specific questions to which you would like to find answers as you study. Write these questions down and use them as a guide as you read.
  3. Read: Read through the chapter you have selected. Adjust your reading speed as needed; some sections may take less time to read than others. Also, study any figures, tables, or graphics when you come across references to them in the text. This helps to keep each piece in context.
  4. Reflect: As you read, think about the examples and descriptions provided in the text. You may also think of examples from your own experience that are related to what you are reading. Reflective reading is active reading; by interacting with what you read, you may better understand and remember the content.
  5. Recite: When you complete each section of the text, check your understanding of what you have read. Can you answer the questions about this section that you wrote down before you started? Do you need to reread the section or some parts of it? Monitoring your progress by asking yourself these types of questions may help you identify areas you understand well and areas that you will want to study further.
  6. Review: After you have finished reading the text, you may want to check your understanding of the content by reviewing your questions for the whole chapter. Can you answer your questions without referring to the text? Reviewing your questions for a chapter immediately after you finish reading it, as well as later in your study plan schedule, can help you retain and apply what you have learned.

Whether you use PQ4R or some other study technique, the key to success is to become familiar with the material you are studying. As you study, predict what the content will be, ask yourself questions about it, paraphrase information aloud, relate the information to other things you know, review and summarize what you have learned—become involved in your studying.

Strategies for Success on the Day of the Test

Review the following strategies to help you do your best:

Follow directions.

Read, listen to, and follow all test directions.

Pace your work.

The test session is designed to allow sufficient time for you to complete the test. At any point in the test, you will be able to see how much time you have remaining. You can also choose to begin the test in any section or go to any particular question at any time during the test. If you have any difficulty answering a question, you may flag it for review and return to it later, but you must respond to the questions, including those flagged for review, during the allotted time. If your test contains constructed-response assignments, remember to leave enough time to respond to the assignments.

Read carefully.

Do not try to save time by skimming directions or by reading the test questions quickly. You may miss important information and instructions.

Determine the "best answer."

Your response to each multiple-choice item should be the best answer of the alternatives provided. Read and evaluate all four answer choices before deciding which one is best.

Guess wisely.

Your results on the multiple-choice section will be based on the number of questions you answer correctly. Attempt to answer all questions. You will not be penalized for incorrect responses; it is better to guess than to leave a question blank. If you are unsure about a question, use your knowledge of the content area to eliminate as many of the alternatives as you can; then select from the remaining choices.

Respond to the constructed-response assignment fully and clearly.

If you are taking a test with a constructed-response assignment, be sure to read and respond to each part of the assignment fully and clearly. It is important for scorers to be able to understand your response.

After the Test

With the help of the test-taking strategies described above, you should be able to use the time before and during the test wisely. There are also a few things you can do after the test that may be helpful to you, whether or not you have passed the test.

First, it may be useful to review the list of competencies you used during your studying. Look over that list and mark the competencies that represented the most difficult content for you on the test. Whether or not you pass the test, you may wish to enhance your own knowledge with further study in those areas.

Also, when you receive your score report, you will learn which competencies were more or less difficult for you. Devote further study to the content of the competencies in which your performance was the weakest. Remember that all the competencies that were tested have been identified as important to being an effective beginning educator.