Reading on a Screen - Improving Comprehension during Computer Based Testing

Improving comprehension when reading on a computer screen

In the current world of testing, many of the assessments our students have to take are on the computer. Students read and answer questions almost exclusively online with just a piece of scrap paper in front of them.

From my experience, students know how to annotate a text, but when they are reading on a computer screen, they aren't sure of what to do with that piece of paper or how to track what they are doing. Going over these tips with your student can help increase their confidence during testing. 

Comprehension Tips for Computer Based Testing

Talk about Your Student's Current Reading Strategies

If your student is really comfortable reading and annotating on paper, talk together about what they are currently doing and why it works. Then, work together to transition their strategy to the scrap paper. I have seen students who normally annotate paper like crazy leave a scrap paper blank during a computer test because they never thought before about what to do with it. Having the confidence that you know what you are going to do before you test will remove a lot of unnecessary worry during the test. 

Read the Questions First

In the same way that you should read the questions first on a paper assessment, a computer based assessment will give you all the reasons you are reading. I like to write down paragraph or line numbers that require specific attention on my scrap paper so that when I go through my first read, I can keep track of all the places to pay special attention. Then, I can predict the answer before I even toggle over to the question. Otherwise, students will waste a lot of time clicking back and forth looking for the questions and re-reading for the answers. 

Set Up Graphic Organizers

Students can set up really simple t-charts when they have to read multiple passages: the PARCC and the SATs often ask students to compare two or more passages, either in writing or in multiple choice questions.  If students know in advance what kinds of questions they will have to answer, they can name their t-chart after the question. Then, as they read, they have a really clear purpose for reading and note-taking, and then they will have an easy outline for their essay. It is a huge way to save time and keep all their thoughts organized. 


What are your computer based testing tips?