Spice Up Your Test Prep: How to get kids ready for testing without crushing their souls

“I love testing!” “When does testing start again?” “I can’t wait to review the practice book for the English 1 exam!” Do you hear these phrases in your halls right around May? Nope, me neither. Testing is something that a lot of teachers look at as a necessary evil. It has to happen, so let’s get it over with.

However, there are some ways to make it fun not just for your students, but for you too! Nothing is worse or more soul-crushing than going through a test prep session out of a practice book. By the time the actual test comes, they are done (and so are we). 

Here are some ways you can spice up your test prep while keeping everyone engaged and souls intact. 

Vocabulary Games

If you don’t know Esther Park, she is kind of a Google slides wiz and has a lot of free resources for educStudents can make new ators. She has vocabulary review games like Snakes and Ladders and Digital Vocabulary Tiles in her Teachers Pay Teachers store, and she also shares her Tug of War resource for free (see more below!).

worlds with tiles in her Digital Vocabulary Tiles resource and they can earn more points by creating their own sentence with the word, saying the word out loud, or making a definition for it. In Snakes and Ladders, students roll the dice and when they land on a word, they need to provide either a definition or example sentence. If they can’t, they can’t continue.

Vocabulary GamesEscape Rooms Escape Rooms

In “Escape the Study Guide: Gamifying the Review Process”, Merek Chang discusses using escape rooms with Google Forms to review information. Students were given a study guide, the Google Forms, and riddles to unlock.This teacher had problem sets that were divided up by state standards. If students completed the riddles correctly, they could move on to the next set until they ultimately complete all sets.
If you don’t know where to start, check out this great blog post over at TeachEveryDay. They run through everything you need to plan an all-digital escape room. 

Speed Dating

Beth Skelton’s blog post about speed dating for test review says that speed dating is a great way to “get them to interact with each other in English about academic content.” And since all students, not just ESL students, are learning and engaging with academic language, this is a great activity to get students to solidify what content they learned.

To get started, place student desks in two concentric circles and get your test questions ready. Both sides think of their answers independently, and then one side shares their response first. Next, the other side shares and then both partners come to a consensus about which answer they want to share to the group. Then, one side moves to the next partner and this continues until questions are all answered!

Speed Dating

Speed dating activity

ReadTheory Competitions

ReadTheory.org offers a great way to motivate students and to help them build stamina before high stakes testing begins. Set up a class competition or start tracking students’ points and levels! Students earn a ton of bonus points for going slowly and earning passing scores on quizzes, so it’s a great way to reinforce the “slow and steady” mindset students need for testing. Here’s a progress chart you can use in your class!ReadTheory Competitions

Virtual Bingo

Not only does this virtual bingo resource make the bingo card for you, but they also have ready-made templates for you to use and an instruction video if you need a little extra support. All students have to do is go to the link you provide them from the website and they are ready to review! It’s free for up to 30 students.Virtual BingoFree Bingo templates

Play Virtual Tug of War

Pick out some review questions to go over as a class and play this Virtual Tug of War game from Mrs. Park! I am super excited to try this one with my own students because they need to record responses and get some speaking practice in. Their “tug” is their response and they place the “tug” as far away or close to the middle with whatever “strength” they think their answer is. They then have to record a response to their opponent. This game works for review questions by posting a statement from a review question and responding if they agree or disagree to the validity of the statement.Play Virtual Tug of War

Make a Video Game

In this resource from Digital Divide and Conquer, students can make their own video game using elements of coding, ELA, math, and design. They can make their own practice test in game form and have students play each other’s games as review. Students can create characters, backstories, story arcs, elements, and levels. They can also work alone or with partners on this project. This one is obviously a little more in-depth, so more time is needed for set-up and practice.Make a Video GameDesign a video game


You already know I had to mention Kahoot. Kahoot is the ultimate digital tool for review in my book and I know a lot of teachers out there use it! It’s simple yet engaging, and did you know that they have already made for you Kahoots? The Kahoot team and educators share their creations and all you have to do is make a copy. Here is a Kahoot review on polynomials as an example for all you math teachers out there.Kahoot


Jeopardy is kind of a cult classic and some people are devout watchers. I personally have never watched it; it’s not my thing. But I do see the power it has for reviewing material and getting students engaged. This online tool has pre-made Jeopardy templates or you can make your own. After entering a password, all you have to do is enter your title, your categories, and your question prompt and response and you are all set to play!Jeopardy

Keep it fun

Whichever test prep you decide to do, keep it light and fun! It’s no secret that this year has been challenging for teachers and students. Let’s end it on a positive note with a little friendly competition! Check out this ReadTheory article to learn more about using the elements of gaming in your classroom for next year. You can also learn more about using ReadTheory for standardized test prep here!

Keep it fun

Susan Patterson, ReadTheory Writer
Written by Susan Patterson, ReadTheory Writer

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