In today’s blog post, we’ll be addressing a question from Stacy, a dedicated educator from Utah. Stacy, an experienced CTE teacher, is seeking advice on how to get her students to take skills tests seriously.

In Utah, standardized tests play a role in funding for CTE courses. So, it’s crucial to find effective strategies to motivate students.

I’ve faced similar challenges and have learned valuable lessons along the way. Let’s dive into some proven techniques to encourage student engagement in skills testing.

Help Students Find Value in the Skills Tests

One fundamental aspect of motivating students for skills tests is helping them recognize the value of the exam. While we can emphasize the benefits of adding the certification to their resumes, we need to go beyond that.

In my experience, tying the test to specific software and providing students with a tangible certificate, like Adobe certification, can increase motivation. Students see the direct relevance and value of the exam, which fuels their determination to perform well.

Foster Self-Efficacy in Your Students Before the Skills Tests

Building self-efficacy among students is a powerful tool in motivating them to excel. One effective method is to familiarize students with the test format and content.

By practicing the test or offering mock exams, students gain confidence and become comfortable with the exam structure. This practice helps cut the fear of the unknown. And empowers students to believe in their ability to succeed.

Celebrate their progress and remind them that they have the necessary skills to ace the test.

Shift Student Mindset and Celebrate Success

Changing the way students view the exam can be a game-changer.

Encourage your students to view the test as an opportunity to showcase their knowledge and growth. Emphasize that the exam results provide valuable data for you as an educator to assess your teaching effectiveness.

Celebrate their achievements, even before the results are known, by creating a brag wall where students can track their progress and celebrate milestones.

Get Involved in Skills Test Development

If the opportunity arises, consider joining the committee responsible for exam development. By participating in the creation or revision of the test, you gain a deeper understanding of its content and structure.

This involvement allows you to provide insights and suggestions to make the exam more effective and student-friendly. Being part of the process empowers you to advocate for improvements that align with your teaching goals and students’ needs.


Motivating students to take skills tests seriously can be challenging. But with the right strategies, it is possible to inspire them to excel.

By helping students find value in the exam, fostering self-efficacy, shifting their mindset, and celebrating their successes, we can create an environment where students are motivated to perform their best.

Remember, it takes time and experimentation to find what works best for your students. Stay determined and adapt as needed to support their growth and success.

Useful Links

Today’s question comes from Stacy, who is one of my fellow educators from Utah, and she asks, as a C T E teacher, how do you get students to take the skills test seriously? To give you a little bit of context, background, all of our, or I guess most of our C T E courses have an. End of level course assessment, and it is an assessment that is considered a standardized assessment.

We do not write them. I’ll give you a little bit more about that in a moment. But we don’t write the tests. It’s not an assessment that we’ve put together. It is another company that distributes that, and some of our funding for our classes are based on how well students do on that test. So that’s what we’re gonna be talking about today.

Welcome to the Secondary Teacher Podcast, the podcast for middle and high school teachers juggling multiple preps to get the strategies to reduce overwhelm so that you don’t have to choose between being an effective teacher and prioritizing important relationships. I’m your host, Khristen Massek, a 10 year high school engineering teacher, former middle school assistant principal and teacher coach.

Every week, we will discuss strategies, systems, and time-saving tips to help you not only survive, but thrive as a multiple prep teacher. CC gave me a little bit more information. In her question. She told me that she preps for students all semester to take that skills test. And even though she tells them it won’t hurt their grade, it is a legislative ruling here in the state of Utah that any sort of standardized exam cannot affect a student’s grade, but that if they get an 80 or above on it, it will help their grade.

And that is something that I used to do with my students as well. But the problem that she’s having is that she’s saying that many of them, probably, most of them, sit down and they just fly through the test, not caring what answers they give, because to them it doesn’t matter. She’s wondering what she’s missing and is there anything that I tell other teachers or anything that have worked in the past for me?

To start that off, I did much of the same thing, and I even went so far. I don’t know if I was breaking the law at this point, I don’t think I was, but that I told them that if they got an 80 or above, which is the passing standard, that I would guarantee them an A, because I felt that. If they could get an 80 on that particular exam, then it’s showing them that they were proficient in all of the standards and therefore they would get an A.

And there was only one time where a student, I think maybe had like a C or a D in the class, and he got an A. But I gave it to him and I was a little bit frustrated with myself after that. This was, I think, my first or second year of teaching and realizing that I probably should have done more pre-assessment because he was probably just bored.

But anyway, that is a tangent that I’m going off on for this test and this. Question and answer. And I, I did ask my husband, we were kind of brainstormed. We’re trying to figure out, okay, what, what really can we do to motivate these students? And the key is, and I don’t know that this is a solvable thing, but it helps us kind of wrap our brains around it.

The students have to find value in the exam. And at this point in time, the. The Utah State skills tests, unfortunately are not motivating students. We can tell them that it. Is helpful. It goes on. You can use it on your resume, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to get an interview and I wish it did.

I wish that we had more buy-in from industry and I know that there was a time that we were really working on that and that still could be going on as well, but, The students have to have some value. I had a lot more success when I was giving, and of course, exams that were tied to specific softwares because then they had that certificate from Adobe that they could then take somewhere, and to them it meant something.

The problem is that didn’t do anything for me and my funding for my program, but it was something that. Extrinsically or intrinsically motivated students to do well on that exam. There are some other things that I’ve seen that other teachers have done in different content areas that haven’t necessarily motivated their students to do well, but there are practices that had students have that self-efficacy that they were going to do well, and one of them was practicing the test or the format.

Of the test, and we did that when I was at the middle school and we did the, with the, the end of year math, or actually end of year, any of our content areas, we were having students just get familiar with the formatting of the exam so that they just didn’t stare at a blank screen because they weren’t sure what.

They could do to answer or how to answer a question, whether it was a drag and drop or the exams that we were looking at specifically had different tools that they could use, the calculator. But having students have that self-efficacy, knowing that, Hey, if I take my time, I’m going to do really well.

So having that, and then you could do some celebrations of getting excited about. Where students are, where they’re going. Let them know that they, they are going to be successful at this. You’ve taught them everything they know. And maybe if there’s a way, I know with, with precision, I know that this last year they did for summer conference and.

Hopefully you were able to participate in this, but they did allow teachers to take the test so that you had an idea what was on the exam, because that can be a, a huge problem as well is because you feel like you’ve covered all of the standards and the students get into the exam and they’re like, we didn’t learn anything.

And a lot of it was. That I found in my personal experience was a vocabulary barrier. I was using one set of vocabulary and the exam was written in another set, and sure they were things that, that if the students really read and really thought through it, they would’ve been able to figure out the answer, but they didn’t care and so they just rushed through.

I don’t know if I’m giving a great answer, but finding that way of instilling that self-efficacy so that students going into that exam, they know they’re going to ace it, they’re going to do a great job with that, and then celebrating those successes.

Having a brag wall can also be, that is more of extrinsic motivation, but having a brag wall where maybe you. And it, I know this is difficult because with the legislation and the sharing of, ferpa, their grades and how they got, but it isn’t really associated with their grades.

But maybe you have students track how they’re doing and maybe they, they can celebrate when they get to a certain spot and. It is just really hard and I know. I feel your frustration. I know it. I’ve been there. I will say that this has really, it doesn’t really go with this question. It does, but it doesn’t.

It may not be to get those students motivated, but if the exams that you are given, Watch for when they redo them and now they don’t redo them all the time, but get on the committee. For any end of level course exam, anything that you’re teaching anywhere, if there comes a time where they’re asking for people to be on a committee to revise the exam, get on the committee that way.

You are helping with writing the exam and it is quite a laborious process, but you get some feedback, you get some insights. What’s great too, is that when I’ve been doing it for the state of Utah, is that they literally take every question, question by question and they look to see. How many students over the past years, how are they answering?

And then you, you make minor tweaks to them because sometimes it is the way that something is phrased that you are confusing students and there is someone in the room who is an expert text, right? Test writer who knows all of the different things to do to make it so you’re writing a good exam. It’s not the typical exam that we might give our students that might be leading or misleading or just give away the answer.

But being on that committee can also help you have a broader knowledge of what that exam is. Now I did.

I would also look at your end of when.

Another thought that I’m having is that after your students take the exam, or even before your students, maybe ask them how they’re feeling and. Get them to a point where they are feeling comfortable with doing well on that exam. Once again, trying to figure out what’s going to be that internal motivation.

I know with AP and when we give those types of exams, we’re trying to make the environment as comfortable as possible, and even afterwards there’s a celebration that you, you made it through the exam even though nobody knows how you did for another. A month or two, but maybe shifting the mindset on the exam itself could help out and allow those students to maybe not feel the pressure of the exam, but allowing them to just show what they know and really letting them know, Hey, this is data that’s really going to help me see whether or not I am doing a good job in teaching this.

I would really, it would really help me out if you could do this for me and that might work for some students, but really try doing a few different. Avenues and different ways of motivating them maybe from different perspectives might help with your students and their success.

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