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PSSA and Keystone Exams: 7 Tips for Students Preparing to Ace Their Tests

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Created to replace the Grade 11 PSSA, the Keystone exams are a core component of Pennsylvania’s high school graduation criteria. They are end-of-course tests taken by all students, whether in online schooling programs or another format, and used to determine students’ proficiency in Literature, Biology, and Algebra I.

Similarly, PSSA testing (Pennsylvania System School Assessment) is an annual nail-biter for students and educators alike. This examination is focused on determining how well students, and the schools they attend, measure up to proficiency standards in subjects like Science, English Language Arts, Technology, and Math. English Language Arts (ELA) and Math testing is required for all PA students in grades 3 through 8, while grade 4 and grade 8 students are tested in Science. The test prep suggestions discussed below for the Keystone exams work equally well for the PSSA.

Getting ready for the Keystone exams can feel stressful, leaving pupils anxious, concerned, and underprepared. But by utilizing the seven top tips below, becoming fully Keystone-ready isn’t so difficult.

1 Remember the RUN Method

While running away may be more in line with how students feel when they begin preparing for exams, RUN is an acronym designed to help them remember to:

  • Read — Carefully scrutinizing the instructions leaves less room for error. It’s a case of “measuring twice, cutting once.”
  • Underline — While reading the instructions a second time, underlining specific required actions helps affirm the question’s objective.
  • Note — Examinees should record any special requirements outlined by the question.

2 The Importance of Practice Papers

Practice papers work wonders to prepare students for the real deal. Achieving top marks on the day proved much easier after following a revision schedule that included working on practice papers.

Ideally, test takers should simulate the test center atmosphere as perfectly as possible. That way, they can estimate how well they cope with an otherwise unfamiliar environment.

On top of that, practice papers allow for time management enhancements. The trick is to tackle the easier questions before going back and working through the more complicated objectives.

3 Allow the Body and Mind to Rest and Recharge

Perhaps one of the most vital components of preparing for Keystone exams (or any test, for that matter) is to sleep well. Human brains and bodies cannot optimally function without a full night’s rest.

Students with ad-hoc sleeping patterns should start regulating their body clock ahead of schedule. Then, they’ll be able to sleep peacefully the nights before the exams and recall information much faster.

Experts at the Mayo Clinic put forth the following advice to achieve a healthy sleeping pattern before tests:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day
  • Eat dinner at least a couple of hours before bed
  • Prioritize calm activities (sleeping, stretching, etc.) before bed
  • Regularly exercise
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4 Utilize Online Study Resources

Schools across Pennsylvania post resources online for students to access for free prior to sitting the Keystone exams. While the topics are covered in detail in school, teachers encourage pupils to incorporate at-home revision into their schedule.

For effective home studying, guidelines suggest individuals consult the following websites:

  • Quizlet
  • Study Island
  • Pennsylvania Department of Education

5 Clothing and Food Matters

Dressing for success doesn’t mean feeling uncomfortable. Instead, tutors recommend students dress in multiple, comfy layers.

Test centers aren’t necessarily designed with comfort in mind, and pupils might grow too hot or cold. Numerous layers ensure they’re prepared for any environment, allowing them to focus easily on the task at hand.

Additionally, a nutritious breakfast is an essential part of Keystone preparation. Different foods like the following help stimulate various brain functions while satiating the body:

  • Berries (including strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries) — High in anthocyanins which increase blood flow to the brain, improving signaling pathways to increase memory and learning.
  • Eggs — Rich in vitamin B12, selenium, and choline necessary for cognitive performance.
  • Citrus fruits — Nutrients prevent mental decline and promote information recall.

6 A Realistic Revision Schedule Is a Must-Have

Many students set themselves up to fail by trying to stick to an unrealistic revision timetable. After all, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything!

Thus, pupils should endeavor to accurately work out how many hours they have free every day to revise. Then, slot in manageable revision chunks. People often find it useful to switch subjects to ensure optimal engagement throughout study sessions.

7 Customize Notes to Aid Information Recall

Different learners respond better to different revision aids. For example, some students prefer audio notes, while others love flashcards and diagrams.

Many teachers suggest color-coding to help organize and find the necessary information quickly.

The Bottom Line

By using the seven top tips above, students can appropriately prepare their minds and bodies to achieve excellence in the PSSA and Keystone exams.