The fact is, most students do not know how to prepare to take exams. For example, many do not understand that it is much better to study in many short blocks of time instead of trying to cram everything in the night before an exam. This takes some planning and discipline that many students don’t know how to do. Here is a suggested schedule.
- About three weeks before an exam, take time to organize everything. Your child needs to look for every test, review guide, and important handout she received since the beginning of the semester. If there is a test she did poorly on (or lost), she needs to find out from her teacher an acceptable way to get a replacement. (Personally, I tell my students to ask a friend who did well on it if they will let them have a copy of theirs. But some teachers might not allow this.) If she isn’t sure what tests she had, she might be able to look at the teacher’s online grade book to see how many test grades she had throughout the semester. Another strategy might be to compare her tests to a friend’s. Hopefully, between the two of them, they will have all of them.
- By the time exams roll around, your child might already know most of what is on them. She doesn’t need to spend a lot of time studying what she already knows. The trick is to figure out what she knows and what she doesn’t. She should start by very slowly reading through her notes. As she reads, she should stop and think about each concept. If she feels she knows it, she should keep moving. If she is confused, she should mark it with a highlighter or red pen. She should do the same for the tests and review guides—mark anything she feels he might not know.
- The next step is to figure out how to learn the highlighted material. Is this something she needs to meet with her teacher about? Would a study group with friends be enough? Is it possible to learn the concepts by rereading the textbook or working the problems again? Does she need to make flash cards or a study chart?
- The final step is to set up a calendar with study times for each class. Remember that it’s best to study 15-20 minutes on each subject spaced out over several nights than to study the same amount of time all at once.
Exams are a great time to change learning from temporary into permanent. The time students spend studying really improves long-term memory of those concepts. Remind your child that the above steps need to be done for each class she is taking. That’s why this process takes several weeks. As parents, you can help your child by planning for quiet, stay-at-home weekends before exam week starts. With proper exam prep, there will be cause to celebrate the weekend after they are all finished!
The printable handout "Preparing To Take Exams" contains more helpful tips.