Today is the last day of finals, for which we are grateful. My school is one of the anomalies in the area in that we have finals before the Christmas Break. So many schools in the area have exams in January.
I’ve been watching students for a long time prepare for exams. Here are some strategies that I have taught them to take the anxiety out of exams:
- Study early – start reviewing early to avoid the last minute rush. I am one of those teachers who hands out the review to students almost three weeks ahead of time. However, not everyone does. Still, students can look over all of their old tests and quizzes and begin to generate what they need to study for the final.
- Use online resources – there are several apps – Quizlet is one of the favorites at my school – where students can create study materials. Some of the apps let students create flashcards, and then let them play games or review or learn. This is great since it plays to the wired nature of today’s teenager and it is far lighter to carry a phone than it is textbooks and binders.
- Pool resources – this is so helpful and can help lighten the load. Students can get together and divide the work of preparing study materials. Using some of the online resources, students can each prepare a portion of the study materials that everyone can share. It is important that if your student does work with a group, that it is a group of people that he or she can depend on to complete the work.
- Take breaks – studying for hours on end will lead to exhaustion and frustration. Studying in small increments with breaks will help with rest and refocus, which leads to better retention and less frustration.
- Vary the order of what you study – if you always start with studying math, and always start at the beginning of the material, the last subject or material studied will always suffer. Start with math one night, English the next, and history the next. Start in different places each time you study the subject.
- Try to have fun – my students create review games, and have even played charades, to review material. They sing songs, make up rhymes, and draw pictures. Use your creativity to make this process a little less stressful.
- Do the math – calculate what score you will need to make on your exam to maintain or raise your average. For some classes, you may only need to pass the exam, and others, you may need to make 150 on the exam to get that A, which we all know won’t happen. Either way, having a realistic picture of where you need to be numerically goes a long way toward setting priorities and alleviating stress.
It is important that students in late middle school and high school take control of their studying for exams, and these steps can help them take that control without completely stressing themselves out.