Tips for Test Prep with CommonLit in 2021

Two students sitting at a table with their laptops, facing each other.

Practical tips for leveraging CommonLit’s library and flexible assignments to give your students additional practice

Weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Education made an important announcement regarding state testing for SY 20–21; states will be given increased flexibility in how they administer standardized assessments and schools won’t be held accountable for the results. Nevertheless, this means that many students will need to practice for and take their state-wide assessment.

At CommonLit, we know that this has been an incredibly challenging and stressful year for both teachers and students. As schools begin to prepare for this year’s statewide exams, it’s our hope that our resources can be of use. In this blog post, we’ll highlight some practical tips for making test prep as seamless and effective as possible.

Tip 1: Choose the Right Text

CommonLit offers hundreds of high-quality texts for each grade level. However, some texts are much better than others for test prep.

First, we recommend choosing texts that can be read in about 10 to 15 minutes or less. This will give students the experience they need reading a short passage — like the kind they’ll see on their exam — before they answer comprehension questions.

Second, try to avoid texts that touch upon mature topics, such as war, oppression, or violence. While it’s important for students to learn about these topics in school, they may not be ideal for testing practice. As students read texts on mature topics, it’s often helpful for teachers to provide key context and engage students in a meaningful discussion. Instead, try to choose texts that are enjoyable and that won’t illicit a strong emotional response from students.

Tip 2: Use Guided Reading Mode Strategically

CommonLit’s Guided Reading Mode is a great way to help students chunk the main ideas of a text as they read. Unfortunately though, students will not have access to a tool like this when taking their state assessments.

When doing test prep with your students, it’s perfectly fine to assign Guided Reading Mode questions to students. However, over time, and as students build confidence, you may choose to wean students off of these questions, and assign on the Assessment Questions.

Tip 3: Consider Omitting the Short Answer Question

Assessments vary from state to state. However, in many states, students are not required to complete a writing assignment after each passage read. As such, you may choose to only assign the multiple choice questions to your students. This will give your students they practice they need with the types of questions they’re certain to see. This will also allow you to save class time, cut down on grading, and send back results to students more quickly since CommonLit’s multiple choice questions are automatically graded.

A student assignment preview and the assignment panel for the lesson "I, Too." A red arrow is pointing to "Assessment Options."

Tip 4: Release Student Scores so Students Can Track their Progress

Shortly after your class completes a practice passage, don’t forget to release their scores. This will allow students to see how they performed overall and see which questions they answered correctly. You can also choose to review questions with students, analyze the distractor choices, and help students learn from their mistakes.

An assignments page, with a red arrow pointing to the lesson "On Turning Ten" and a prompt that says "Release scores and feedback to students."

As students begin to complete assignments, encourage them to view their Student Progress page from their CommonLit account. They’ll be able to see how they’ve performed on each lesson and how they are performing by standard.

Data charts that show a student's performance for the standard RL.1.

Conclusion

We’re so glad that we have been able to support you and students during this extremely challenging school year.

If you’re interested in learning more about CommonLit’s digital program, sign up to attend one of our upcoming webinars. We’re eager to support your work!