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Classroom Management: Why You Must Pretest Your Students

Janelle Cox

Educational assessment is a widely used classroom management practice among teachers across all grades. When teachers are looking to effectively measure how prepared students are for a new unit of study, many of them opt to use a pretest. This classroom management technique will help assess how much the students already know about the topic, as well as their strengths, weaknesses, and skills prior to instruction.  An effective way to measure a student’s proficiency in a particular skill is to work backward. This is where you pretest students based on the objectives of what you want them to learn in their final assessment. Once you get this information, then you can carefully review the results to help you use classroom management to decide how much time you need to spend in each particular area of the topic that is being covered. The basis for this method is so that teachers don’t waste time on topics and skills that students have already mastered.

Take, for example, the use of a social studies pretest to assess how well students know their cardinal directions. If all students understand the concept and know how to use their cardinal directions then the teacher can skip that section of the lesson. However, if some students aren’t familiar or may have forgotten how to use them, then the teacher can conduct a quick review lesson versus a whole group lesson, or even use individualized instruction to teach the concept.

Importance of Pretesting as Part of Classroom Management

There are a few key advantages of pre-assessment that can help to maximize a students’ potential. We’ve already discussed how it allows teachers to see what skills students have mastered so they won’t waste valuable time teaching concepts that students already understand. Here are a few more advantages of why it’s a good idea to pretest your students.

Pretests Help Measure Student Growth

When you give your students a pretest, you are learning what they know about a topic and at what level of understanding they are at. At the end of the semester when you give your students a posttest, then you can take the two tests (both pre- and post-) and compare the results to measure student growth in that particular skill. For example, we’ll use the same concept mentioned earlier about cardinal directions. When students are both pre- and post-tested about this concept, you can compare not only how one individual student has learned, but you can also take those results and compare how well a class has learned. You can even take it one step further and compare different classes.

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Pretests Give Students a Preview of What is Expected

One major advantage pretests have for students is that it gives them a preview of what to expect and what will be covered during the lesson or unit. Pretests are filled with key concepts or terms that students will learn. For example, a pretest in social studies may have the terms north, south, east, and west. This is usually the first time students will be exposed to what they will be learning during the unit. And as you know, the more students are exposed to the information, the better they will retain it.

Pretests Help to Plan Future Lessons

The information that you gain from your students’ pretests can help you plan your lessons. For example, if the majority of your students are already familiar with a topic, then you know that next year when you are teaching the same lesson, those students may also be familiar with it, which means you can either skip it or just have a quick review of it. Another example is if the students don’t have any knowledge of the subject matter that you are about to teach them. You can take the information that you learned this year from your pretests to make sure that you focus more on that topic next year.

In today’s classrooms, you can easily pre-assess a student by giving him an entry ticket versus a full pretest. These are just a few quick questions (one to three) on the topic they will be learning to see how much they can recall about the topic, or if they even have any knowledge about the topic. Then you can easily go over the questions as a class and modify your lesson on the fly.

Pretests are a valuable tool for teachers. The information that you gain from them can not only help you figure out what students already know (so you don’t have to reteach it), but also it can help you provide students with a more individualized approach to learning.

Do you use pretests as classroom management to assess your students? Why do you think they are an essential tool for teachers and students? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at

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