How to help your teen study for a test
In classrooms across America, teachers strive
to provide engaging lessons, meaningful homework, and assessments, but more
often than not, our students aren’t learning how to learn. Kids walk out of
their classrooms armed with study guides, notes, and chapters to read, but they
don’t know how to put that information into storage for retrieval tomorrow,
next week, or three months from now.
many teens, studying means quickly reading through their textbook or notes.
Wrong! Studying isn’t passive; it is a full contact sport. In order to really
study, students need to get engaged in the material. This type of studying is
very different from merely reading over the material. The following tips will
help your child to properly prepare for the next upcoming test.
Set the groundwork. Helping a younger
child study for a test might be a piece of cake, but so often, teens resist
their well-meaning parents’ support. When you know a big test is coming up,
approach your child early on. Consider asking, “Can you show me how you’re
going to study?” Open a dialogue about how your son or daughter will prepare.
Remember, the end grade isn’t as important as the preparation process.
Use the study guide properly. If
you are reviewing test material with your child (or if he is doing so
independently), encourage him to make connections instead of merely verbatim.
For example, if you are asking your child to define terms for a biology test,
ask not only the definitions of mitosis and meiosis, but also how they are the
same and different. Helping your teen make connections between topics
stimulates flexible thinking. This is important because the actual test
questions may not be just as they appear on the study guide.
Try out a 3×5 card. When your child has a
study guide or an old quiz from which to study, they should read the question,
cover the answer with a 3×5 card, and try to recite the correct response. If
they get it right, they check it off and go to the next one. If it’s wrong,
they practice a few more times until they get it down.
Utilize mnemonic devices. Researchers
have found that using mnemonic devices can help students improve their memory
skills by connecting to-be-learned information to what the learner already
knows. One common mnemonic device is HOMES, which is an acronym for the Great
Lakes—Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. This strategy is flexible;
it can be used with virtually any type of rote memorization. Once students are
shown how to use this technique, they come up with all kinds of catchy acronyms
to make retention easier.
Let your teen hold the cards. If
your teen has flashcards that he needs to study, let him hold the cards and
quiz you. Studies show that merely allowing the student to hold the cards and
take on the role of the teacher increases time on task and retention of
information. If your child is a visual learner, encourage him to draw a picture
next to the term he is learning. This helps to create a mental image, which triggers the definition. For example, if
the vocabulary word is “docile”, his drawing might be of his dog, who is good
natured and easy to train.
Make a practice test. A
highly effective way to prepare for an exam involves creating a practice test.
This means that the student generates a sample test of questions he thinks
might be on the exam. This information can come from old quizzes, a study
guide, or notes. Encourage your child to ask the teacher about the test format.
Will it be comprised of essay questions, fill-in-the-blank, or multiple-choice?
This formation helps with preparation.
Invite a friend over. For some students,
small group learning is far more appealing and productive than going it alone.
Positive peer influence has been well documented to improve academic success,
and as an added bonus, study groups are fun. Group discussion will help your teen
absorb new information that he may otherwise miss just by reading.
Plan ahead. Practice makes permanent
when studying for tests, especially when it’s done in advance. Once a deadline
for a test is given by the teacher, your child should record it in his planner
along with the smaller study tasks leading up to the final date. Breaking a
large task, such as studying, into smaller ones over a period of days increases
memory retention and decreases stress.
Troubleshoot test anxiety. Many
students are quick to complain about test anxiety. Although some may be
accurate in their self-diagnosis, others are nervous because they haven’t
prepared properly. Perhaps they’ve read their notes, skimmed the chapter, and
reviewed the study guide, but that is not true preparation. Quizzing oneself
until the information is committed to memory is imperative. If an answer is “on
the tip of his tongue,” it’s likely that it wasn’t stored into memory
effectively and more work is needed. GFM
K. Dolin, M.Ed., is the founder and president of Educational Connections, Inc.,
a comprehensive provider of educational services (ectutoring.com). Check out
her award-winning book, Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for
Stress-Free Homework (anndolin.com)