Exam Success Tips
Below you will find some exam preparation tips for students to help them understand the best ways to prepare for exams in advance. Students in Middle and Upper School are still developing study skills; many of them will not master sophisticated methods of studying until college. Teens are notoriously bad at seeing the benefits of "short-term pain for long-term gain," so try to help them visualize how good it will feel to do well on the exam, and hopefully raise their overall grade in a class.
Take care of yourself. Make time to eat right, sleep, and get outside these last few weeks of school. Drink water to keep yourself hydrated.Avoid too much caffeine and sugar. Research shows that eating healthy protein-rich foods on test days can improve your performance. Sleep also helps us consolidate information in memory as well as exercise.
Plan your study space. Study in the "manner of the test." This usually means sitting up with a pencil or pen in hand. Laying on your bed with music or Netflix on in the background does not help you to focus enough to really retain information. Set up your study space with materials you need; paper, highlighters, markers an iPad Charger.Good lighting and a pillow for your back can make it comfortable but not too comfortable. Try to write down your goals or favorite motivational or funny mantras, and post them above your desk.
Organize your materials. Now is the time to go through all of your notebooks and folders and those papers shoved in your locker or backpack. Pull out old quizzes and tests you took this semester and organize them. Create a study pile or folder for each class and make your old tests into "quizzable" study tools. You can even review them with friends.
Create a study plan (see Free Time Planners attached). For some exams, you may need a total of eight or so hours spread out over 4-5 days, so planning for this is essential! Planning when and how you will study can decrease your anxiety about exams, and help you feel more in control.
If you are in middle school, asks parents for help with planning your studying. Will you make note cards? Will you make Quizlets? Plan ahead. Research shows that those who write out a plan achieve their goals more frequently than those who do not!
Study in manageable chunks. Current research shows that a "20 minutes on, 10 minutes off" study chunk is more effective than studying for 2 hours straight. You should spend 20 minutes actively studying and 10 minutes taking a break with a physical activity like shooting baskets (even if it is wadded up paper into your trash can), jumping on a trampoline or taking a walk with your dog. This allows the brain to consolidate information. Study early in the day on the weekends when you are rested and fresh.
Think like a teacher! As you review materials, think about what questions your teacher may ask. Prepare for essay questions by predicting essay questions (your teachers will give you hints during Review week) and practice outlining or writing out the answers.
Actively study! Many of you think of studying as reading over your notes or re-reading a chapter. These are passive strategies, which are not as effective as active strategies. To actively study, you must process the material using an active multi-sensory approach, including the four study senses: seeing information, listening to explanations, speaking it out loud and moving and manipulating information (i.e., re-writing it, charting it, organizing it in your own way, making a recording to listen to in the car, etc.).
Repetition is key! Remember you need to encode information in your memory, practice retrieval by quizzing yourself without looking and then encode it in a new way. According to brain science, when you use spaced repetition + variation when studying = you can learn and retain anything.
LIMIT YOUR DISTRACTIONS! Cell phones, music, social media, notifications, text messages, Snapchat, Pinterest, games, and Instagram will rob you of your time for studying. When you schedule time to study, get rid of these distractions! Learning how to study without interruptions and distractions is an exercise in self-control, which is actually more predictive of success later in life than intelligence.
Don't study what you already know. We often enjoy and feel good studying things we know - but this is a waste of study time. Focus on tackling the information that you don't understand. Ask a friend or parent to explain it or work with a teacher to break it down in a way that you will remember.
See your teachers! Your teachers write their exams! They know best how to study for them. Ask questions during Review Week, go to Extra Help - this is not the time to be shy! Teachers like when students can self-advocate for their own learning and understanding. Even listening to your classmates' questions can help you understand better.
Breathe. Exams are a large part of your grade (15%), but they are only one part of learning and achievement at Tampa Prep. Don't let test anxiety overcome you. You have learned this before, and preparation can help you feel more confident. It's not about being perfect, it's about feeling like you have done everything that you can, with the amount of time that you have. Study hard, take a deep breath, dive into the exam, and then you get to enjoy a nice long winter break!