By Terri Skeele
Family Times is 20! To celebrate, we will pick one article from our archive each month including this one, which appeared in the May 2005 issue. View our other anniversary content here.
The end of the school year elicits mixed emotions from students and teachers.
While everyone looks forward to summer break, a major hurdle must first be cleared.
Of course, this hurdle involves parents, too. Who else is hounding the kids to study, study, study? You’ve done it throughout the year for unit exams, quizzes, and midterms, but the final is the biggie. In many courses, a final exam is worth as much as a marking-period grade.
So, how can you help? First, keep in mind that entire courses are taught on study skills, and yet a large number of students have never actually been taught how to study. Many schools or subject areas have moved to alternative assessments such as portfolios and projects, but it is safe to say all students, at one point or another, will have to take an exam in a testing situation. While your teenager may certainly balk at the idea of you “helping” him study, done correctly, the benefits will outweigh the protests.
Location: While it may seem like a good idea to put your eighth-grader at the kitchen table so you can keep an eye on his progress, the noise and distraction may be a major hindrance. Many kids need quiet and minimal distractions to do their best. One study strategy is to make the study area similar to the test-taking location. Have your student sit at a hard surface, such as a table or desk with good lighting, minimal distractions and comfortable heat. (Although the week of Regents exams tends to bring sweltering temperatures, but that’s another story.) Keep younger siblings away, and keep noise to a minimum. Allowing your son to lie on his bed, or in front of the TV, to study is probably not wise.
Length: More is not always better. If your daughter is planning a major study session the Sunday before her exam, be sure to encourage her to take frequent breaks. About 45 minutes of straight studying is great, but then a 10-to 15-minute break is due. Make your daughter a snack; send her outside; let her call a friend, anything that truly takes her away from her studies. She will return rejuvenated and better able to retain information.
Preview: Before your son really starts studying, be sure he knows what he should be studying. Is it a cumulative exam or just the last few units? What is the format: essay, multiple choice or short answer? Has the teacher identified specific areas that will be on the test? What are the major headings in the textbook and/or notes? Have him go over these with you, and encourage him to speak to his teacher if he is unsure.
Practice and review: Once your daughter knows what to study, have her teach you. One of the best ways for students to retain what they know is by teaching others. She will remember much more of the content by explaining it to you than she will just by reading it over. Come up with possible test questions. Many students retain information better by writing it down, so perhaps paraphrasing or summarizing her notes or textbook will help.
The night before: This may sound obvious, but send your son to bed at a reasonable hour. He may feel the need to stay up late to cram as much as possible, but a good night’s sleep is a much better idea. Also, send him off to the test with food in his belly. Not only will a talkative stomach be embarrassing in a quiet testing situation, but it will also be quite distracting for him.
Clip these Tips for Kids
Once you’re at the test:
- Preview the entire test to see what is there. Pay attention to format and length. Immediately write down things you’re afraid of forgetting, such as formulas, dates and names.
- Answer the easy questions first, and skip those you don’t know. As you go through the exam, you may find answers to some of the questions you didn’t know, or a word may trigger your memory.
- Keep an eye on time and point values. Don’t spend 15 minutes on a two-point question.
- Read the directions. Look out for details such as questions with more than one correct answer, true and false questions that must be fixed, or the need to answer in complete sentences.
- Underline key words such as “describe,” “explain,” or “list.”
- Review your test and make sure you’ve answered all of the questions.
- Next, look over your answers but go with your gut if you’re not sure of an answer.
Check out the full May issue below!