For many in public or parochial school, May is a time to prepare for upcoming final exams. Don’t let your student wait until the last minute to work through a study guide provided by the teacher! Start NOW to create individualized study guides. Finals, especially the comprehensive kind, require more preparation than can be accomplished in a week or two. Ideally, these DIY study guides should be an ongoing project throughout the semester or school year, but even several weeks can make a difference.
Your student is likely to tell you that he or she does not know what will be on the test. The answer to that, of course, is that anything covered in class is a possibility. Get out the old tests, homework assignments, handouts and notes. Grab the textbook. These are the tools you can use to create your own study guides.
Start by listing the chapters or topics that have been covered in class. You can usually get this information from the syllabus, or by looking over the assignments from the year or the semester. Plan to make a section of the study guide for each topic or chapter.
First, make a list of the relevant vocabulary words. Many textbooks have these highlighted. You can also search handouts; many classes use vocabulary word exercises like crossword puzzles or word searches. Write down each word and the correct definition on the study guide. It’s also a great time to make some vocabulary cards to use for practice if you have not already done so. Put the word on one card and the definition on another, and you’ll be able to play games such as Memory to help make studying more interesting.
Now comes the toughest part. You will need to pull the important points from the chapter, the handouts and the notes. How can you do this? How can a student know what is important? By emphasis, that’s how. In the textbook, there are likely to be section titles that will give clues about what the authors thought was important. Many will even put key ideas in bold faced or italic print. In class notes, the important things are the ones that the teacher emphasized, using visual aids, bullet points or verbal emphasis. Put the two together and you’ll have a good idea about what information will be likely to show up on the test.
Finally, take a look at the assignments. These will also give information about what level of importance the teacher is assigning to different concepts. Be most careful to learn about concepts that were important enough to warrant assignments.
Your study guide might take the format of an outline, a graphic organizer or a summary page or two. Try to guess what the teacher will be putting onto his or her official version, and reward yourself if you turn out to have made accurate guesses.
Now, to study the study guide.
- If the information is easily put into pairs (like vocabulary words and definitions, states and capitals or story problems and formulas), play matching games like Memory or Old Maid with cards of the information.
- If it is in groups, like lists of characteristics, people or similar items, try playing grouping games like Rummy or Go Fish with your cards.
- Make checklists and set up your own questions, such as “Name the three causes of the ____.”
- Is your test likely to involve writing paragraphs? Then it’s important to practice in that way. Try writing a paragraph about each of your topics from the study guide, or writing a summary paper about what you’ve learned in the past semester or year.
Studying in this way adds a little extra work to each day, but it pays off in the end because students learn so much more. Test grades will improve, and so will performance in subsequent classes. Give it a try!
Got a question about learning or education? Don’t hesitate to leave it in the comment box below!