Test Prep – Let Kids Practice Filling in the Bubbles

February 25, 2018 4 min read

Do you teach a primary grade and want your class to have some exposure to standardized testing without all the stress?  Or do you teach special ed and the kids don’t take standardized tests except once a year? State standardized testing is coming up and if your students don’t have any idea how to mark their answer choices using a standardized test format, I have a solution for you.

I found myself in this same situation a number of years ago with my special ed class (grades 2-4 took the state test) so I created a couple of activities to help my students get the hang of bubbling in their answer choices. 

The most recent activity I have developed is using an anchor chart to teach kids how to bubble in. There is a lot of information on the chart so depending on the attention spans of your students, you might want to spread this out over several sessions. Below are just the main points to go over:

1. Teach them to mark only one answer choice. (I told you this was very basic!!) Whether 2, 3 or 4 choices, students need to practice only marking one choice per question.
2. Teach them how NOT to mark a choice. Be sure to go over the wrong ways, as well as the correct way to mark the circle.
3. Teach them to use the “Magic” way to bubble in the circle. (Details in resource)
4. Teach them to remember Baby Bear to get it “just right.” (Details in resource)

I also made a handout for kids to use as I teach the anchor chart. It will keep them focused on the lesson and better able to participate and understand (answer key included). 
Another activity is having the students mark the answer choice the teacher tells them. And the example here is having the teacher say, “Number 1: Mark letter C.” So students are told which letter to mark, without having to actually do a problem yet. Again, this page also has a couple of examples at the top showing how to mark the bubble and how NOT to mark the bubble. Students get lots of practice listening and bubbling in, as they need to listen to the teacher tell them what to fill in. The bottom of the page has two sample questions, that I always go over right before they take the practice test (4 pages after the one shown below). Although many states give standardized test online, filling in the bubbles on a printed test still give students practice and allows their minds to fully understand the process.


Now it is time for the practice test.  After answering two sample questions together (see picture above), there there are 4 pages with easy reading and math questions so kids can practice figuring out the answer, and then marking the bubble for their answer choice independently. I tried to make the questions easy (like the samples in photo above) because the idea is to practice taking the test and filling in the bubbles correctly. If kids are able, you can give this whole class. Or you could elect to read it aloud to the whole class, in small groups, or even one-on-one such as in certain special ed settings. 
I tried to make this as versatile as possible so it can be used with different grades and students with disabilities in different states. I want all kids to be able to do their very best in order to show what they know!  This test prep packet is NOT aligned with any specific state standardized test. So your test might have little rectangles to fill in instead of bubbles, or there might be a different number of answer choices, etc. Like I said earlier, I know many states have gone to taking tests online.
I suggest using this paper/pencil version before introducing the state’s online version. If you have curriculum worksheets for reading and math which use circles to mark answer choices, then go ahead and use this resource early in the year, so kids get practice filling in the bubbles correctly all year long. If you think this might help your class, check it out here.
Finally, I included some mini-posters and ideas on how to use them in your class in order to encourage kids to do their best!
Thanks for reading to the end!  I also have a freebie test prep resource in my store. It has the same format, but only has 2 practice test pages, and does not include the anchor chart.  The feedback I’ve received includes the following:
“I’ve been searching everywhere to find something simplistic to help my 3rd graders prepare for Scantron test and this is GOLD! Thank you so much!”
“Thank you! This is a great test prep and great for modeling on the Promethean board using overlay.”
“I used this to prepare my ELL students for their standardized English language proficiency test. They begin taking these tests in first grade, and they are not yet familiar with filling in bubbles. This was a great help and they thought it was fun. Thank you.”
  • Brooke Khan February 28, 2018 at 10:37 AM

    Thank you for reminding me of this! Test prep isn't only about the content, it's also about prepping students for the structure of the test. Great resource.

  • Shannon Olsen March 1, 2018 at 11:07 AM

    This is great- I've spent a decent portion of my teaching career teaching second graders how to bubble correctly! I wish I would have had this resource when they were required to take the state test 😉 Our district assessments are now done on the computer, which also requires its fair share of advance prepping.

  • Kim Lepre March 4, 2018 at 6:21 PM

    I think it's easy to forget that students need training on testing best practices! This is a wonderful resource that I know will save many teachers time and sanity!

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