Testing tips for success: How to prepare for PSSAs and Keystone Exams

With Pennsylvania’s standardized education tests are just around the corner, a CCA administrator shares suggestions to make the testing process easier and encourage success.

The PSSAs and Keystone Exams are coming in April and May. Here are tips and strategies to help students limit stress and do their best.

Pennsylvania’s standardized education tests are just around the corner. While most experts agree that students should get a good night's sleep and eat a nutritious breakfast before taking the exams, one CCA administrator shares other suggestions to make the testing process easier and encourage success.

The Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSAs, as they’re more commonly known, take place for CCA students from April 3 to May 5 with varied dates and locations across the state.

Sara Crawshaw, CCA director of administrative services, said her biggest focus is trying to manage families' anxiety around the idea of a "state-mandated exam." For starters, she said, the PSSAs are a diagnostic tool for schools to make sure the curriculum is aligned with state standards, not a test to determine if a student is passing or failing.

"We want to let them know that they’re not that scary, and try not to stress about them, because this isn’t going to prevent you from going from grade to grade," Crawshaw said. "It’s not going to prevent you from passing your class."

Crawshaw said students do not need to study for these exams, but she suggested that families look over the official PSSA Code of Conduct ahead of time. She encouraged students to ask questions if they need help.

In addition to the PSSAs, some high school students will take Keystone Exams from May 15-26. These tests cover a variety of subjects, including math, science, history and English composition, and are taken only after a course is completed.

Passing scores on Algebra 1, literature and biology are a graduation requirement in Pennsylvania for those in 10th grade and below. Crawshaw said it's important for students to study for those exams. Many teachers help students get ready.

"Most of the teachers do offer reviews," Crawshaw said. "For the most part, they will start to review some of the material from the earlier part of the year in the weeks coming up to Keystones, to kind of refresh it in everyone’s memory."

For both exams, Crawshaw recommended that students answer every question to maximize their scores.

“Even if you don’t know the answer to the question, answer every question anyway, because you’re not going to get points taken away for answering a question wrong. But you’re not going to get any points if you don’t answer the question. So at least if you answer it, you have a chance of getting it right.”

Final thoughts? For families who are new to CCA, or students taking standardized tests for the first time, Crawshaw said most testing takes place in hotel ballrooms, where students are typically grouped by grade. She said families are welcome to wait while students take their tests.

“If parents choose to stay, we typically have a waiting room for parents to wait for their students to finish the exams. So they’ll have a chance to meet other families in their areas and socialize,” she said.

In fact, Crawshaw said, the events can be a great time for families to bring questions or talk about issues, because CCA teachers will be there to answer questions.


Commonwealth Charter Academy


March 29, 2017


Learning Lab

Get weekly updates in your inbox