Strategies for the Classroom: Test Prep


Half the semester has flown by. Exams are creeping up, which means more than a few afternoons, evenings, and possibly weekends will be used for studying. Solid study skills that help students to make the most of study time are not a natural skill—they are learned. Unfortunately, study skills are seldom taught in school, which means most students lack the skills necessary to maximize their study time.

Studying is more than glancing over notes—proper studying requires an active mind that continually questions, summarizes, and paraphrases. These 8 tips will help students study smarter, not longer.

  1. Get Organized. Avoid last minute cram sessions by using a planner or calendar. Plan out a study schedule. Working backwards from the test date, give yourself plenty of time to review all materials
  2. Review with a Pen and Paper. When reading over notes, write down all the subject headings, subheadings, and bolded words. This will help provide a clear picture of the material. Plus, the physical act of holding the pen and writing makes study time active rather than passive.
  3. Ask Questions. By starting your review early, you’ll have plenty of time to ask the teacher questions about material that you find confusing.
  4. Put it in your own words. Rather than trying to commit facts to memory, try explaining what you’ve just read to an imaginary person using your own words. If you have trouble, identify key words and work around them. This process helps will help you to really understanding the material, rather than simply memorize it.
  5. Be efficient. Before beginning to review a chapter ask yourself what you already know about this unit. Once you’ve identified the material that you are comfortable with, study what you don’t know. A common mistake is spending too much time reviewing material that is familiar.
  6. Use mnemonic devices. To remember all items or examples, write the first letter of each example and create a sentence from that acronym. For example, to remember all the planets use MVEMJSUNP, or My Very Educated Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas.
  7. Test yourself. Test your memory and understanding by giving yourself mini-quizzes with this self-test:
    1. read over your notes
    2. cover them up with a sheet of paper or another book.
    3. now recite aloud, or in your head, what you have just read, paraphrasing when possible.
    4. check the facts. Did you remember everything? Pay attention to any missed facts or examples. Chances are, if you missed any now, you’ll miss them on the test too.
  8. Get Some Sleep. Studying for a test is a lot of mental work. By getting a good night’s sleep, your brain has plenty of time to properly organize and store what you’ve studied so that you’ll remember everything at test-time.


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