Now that school time is here again, help your child learn effective ways to prepare for tests. Tests are a fact of life in most educational programs, but most kids find them quite stressful. It doesn’t have to be that way! Most of the stress and test anxiety comes from a feeling of not being prepared. However, many kids simply don’t know how to effectively prepare for tests. If you see your child cramming information the night before a test is scheduled, then these tips are just what you need to share with him or her.
No More Cramming!
Cramming is about the LEAST effective way to prepare for tests. Scientists who study brain function and teachers have known this for a long, long time. At best, cramming gets some of the important stuff into the short term memory long enough to pass the test. At its worst, it confuses and befuddles and stresses kids out. Try these strategies instead:
- Systematic Study: Teach your student to set aside time at least two or three times a week to go over information from each class. Reread and perhaps recopy the class notes, reread the text, chapter and supplemental readings, and try to answer the questions. Use a systematic study tool, like SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review) to guide study activities.
- Try This Flashcard System: Put the information to learn on flashcards. Pick the ten most important or first cards. Go over them at least three times per day. Put a check mark on the cards answered correctly. When there are ten checks on the card, move it to a different pile. Review that pile once per day and put a check on it. When there are ten more checks on the card (20 all together), move it to a third pile. Review that pile once per week until the final exam at the end of the year. If any card cannot be answered, reverse the process and return it to the next most frequently reviewed pile.
- Put Info into a Different Format: Information can be presented as text, captioned pictures, graphs, diagrams, and many other formats. It can even be presented as printed material or audio material. Your student will process information completely if part of the study routine is to change the information’s format. If it is text, try creating a diagram of the idea or filling in a graphic organizer. If the information is from a graph, try making a video to express the same ideas.
- Make Up a Game: Many learning tasks can be practiced using game formats. Could the information be reviewed using memory? That’s great for paired bits of knowledge, like math facts and answers, dates and events, formulas and applications. Can you group or categorize the information? Use it to play Rummy or Go Fish. Is there a diagram or drawing to label or assemble? How about creating a jigsaw puzzle?
Simply staring at the material for an hour on the night before the test is not enough to ensure that it actually gets learned. Students need to interact with information to bridge the gaps between short-term and long-term memory. Help them to do this by encouraging true study skills.
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