It’s the night before a math test and well past the time your child normally goes to sleep. Your child frantically flips through a textbook and scribbles down notes. Discouraged sighs fill the room as the eraser meets the notebook once again. You ask if extra help sessions were attended. The response is a frustrated groan – code for “no, of course not.”
That scenario is a recipe for disaster.
Studying for exams does not have to feel disastrous. All it takes to have successful study sessions is planning time to study, familiarizing oneself with the content in the preferred learning style, and asking teachers for help.
A great place to start is by creating a study schedule. This schedule could be in the form of a calendar or a planner. Have your child jot down the date of the test. Work backwards to plan out days and times for studying. If multiple tests are approaching, it is helpful to color-code the study schedule by subject.
Former Eye Level Ambassador Jeenah suggests that reviewing homework, quizzes, and tests will help in creating an effective study schedule based on the content that needs attention.
Let’s say there is an end-of-year calculus exam. After reviewing the course materials, your child feels that their knowledge of polynomials is strong, but their understanding of inverse functions is weak. Your child should start reviewing inverse functions very early and for as long as necessary, while polynomials can be revisited closer to the test date as a refresher.
Similarly, another former Ambassador, Parth, believes it is best to “make sure to review material constantly, proactively.” Dedicating time every day to studying and working on practice problems makes the content easy to recall. This approach gives plenty of time to master content that was originally a struggle.
Also, be sure your child studies at a time each day when they feel the most focused. This strategy of studying every day eliminates the need for an unproductive, stressful cram session, like the one described earlier.
A big part of understanding and studying is about identifying a preferred learning style. Jeenah believes that “to develop good study habits, you first need to recognize your own style of learning.”
Some people learn best visually, by looking at text, images, and videos. Others thrive auditorily by listening to content, such as through audio books or lectures. Jeenah suggests consuming content visually and auditorily to see which way works best. Your child may even find that they successfully learn through a combination of the two methods.
An additional way to study for exams is to form a study group with classmates. When your child meets with the group in the weeks leading up to the exam, the group members should compare notes with one another. Your child’s notes might include details that a classmate missed or vice versa. It is also helpful for the classmates to quiz each other so that all group members hold one another accountable for learning content and retaining information.
When studying, Parth advises to “take breaks to make sure you don’t get overworked.” No matter the length of the study session, be sure your child takes breaks. It is necessary to give the brain time to recharge and the body the opportunity to move. The break could be spending five minutes in the kitchen having a snack or 20 minutes outside going for a walk.
Last, but not least, ask for help. If your child is struggling with a topic covered in class, make sure they seek extra-help sooner rather than later. Asking for clarification early on allows your child to build the foundation needed to progress onto more complex concepts later. Plus, when the teacher breaks down topics and assigns practice problems, skills and confidence are built.
Throughout the night before the exam, there are several things to keep in mind: reviewing, sleeping, and eating.
Your child should be reviewing notes and sample questions. At this point, the focus must be on refreshing rather than learning topics. Also, be sure that your child gets an adequate amount of sleep. The amount needed will vary from one person to another, but it is necessary for your child to listen to their body. Prior to sleep, have your child decide what they will eat for breakfast the next day. Choose a meal that is rich in nutrients, as this will keep their brain focused.
Now your child has the tools needed to successfully prepare for exams. Remember, the keys to effective preparation are planning time to study, dedicating that time to learning in a way that works best, and proactively asking for help when needed.
The next time your child sits down to take an exam after following those steps, they will be saying “I effectively prepared, and I got this!”