Year-end exams are right around the corner, and many students aren’t sure where to start when it comes to studying.
Whether students are suffering from pandemic fatigue, procrastination, or are simply lost after several months of remote learning, it’s imperative they take their final tests and year-end exams seriously and study for them. Preparing for an exam is just as important as taking the exam itself. Finishing school with a strong transcript will also give students a leg up in scholarship applications, which use academic merit as a qualification.
Brainly, the world’s largest online learning community, recently conducted a survey of its U.S. user base about their year-end exams. Consider this: Approximately 56% of students said they were anxious about their year-end exams.
Patrick Quinn, parenting expert at Brainly who’s also a former teacher and father of three school-age kids, has some tips to help students prepare for standardized tests, combat year-end exam anxiety, and ace their next big test.
- Read and Review—Early and Often. First and foremost, students should start preparing for their year-end exams as early as possible instead of waiting until the week before. We forget 70% of what we have learned within 24 hours, according to the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve principle. Going over new ideas a day after class will help increase retention and comprehension—so make time each evening for a quick review. Break chapters into sections and review the material at the end of each before moving on. Make notes by summarizing the critical aspects of the reading so you can easily review them without having to reread entire chapters. Bookmark difficult sections to revisit later. Pro Tip: If it is written on the board, add it to your notes. It just might be on the test.
- Set Study Goals. For each study session, set a goal to keep track of what you’re studying or revising. You can list out your goals as soon as you start with your study session or you can set them at the end of the session for the next one. Here are some examples of study goals you can set:\
- I will work through at least five equations.
- I will go through and summarise chapters 5 and 6.
- I will understand and learn the key concepts that were taught in class during weeks 1-3.
- Study to Suit your Learning Style. Your learning style will help you to know what are the best ways to prepare for an examination. For instance, if you are an auditory learner, you may benefit from recording your notes and then listening to them later, or you can even listen to classroom lesson recordings. On the other hand, if you are a visual learner, pictures and diagrams can help you remember.
- Limit Distractions With Online Tech Tools. If you’re lacking discipline and can’t help but check your social media during lectures, there’s a great Google Chrome extension called Self Control that can add certain websites to a blacklist for a designated amount of time in which those sites will be blocked, allowing for no school work distractions.
- Have Fun with Words. Breaking down the material into small pieces and creating acronyms, phrases, rhymes, or metaphors can be a valuable—and fun—way to memorize concepts. For example, students learning the steps in the scientific method will easily remember an acronym like HOMER, in which each letter stands for one of the five steps: Hypothesize, Operationalize, Measure, Evaluate, and Replicate/Revise/Report. No matter how silly, this method can help students remember important concepts for their year-end exams.
- Establish Rules of Study Time. Unless students are explicitly using online tools to study, it’s a smart idea to remove phones and laptops from the study area to prevent distractions. Every ding from a text message takes away valuable study time. When your brain is constantly switching back and forth between social and academic spheres, students are also losing a chance to work on their focus and stamina during a test. Some other rules might include things like:
- If you are studying for a lengthier amount of time, pre-schedule breaks with set time limits.
- Snacks and drinks are okay during study time so long as they are not a distraction.
- Focus on Understanding. For complex math problems and abstract concepts like the events that led up to a war, for example, the best way to ensure you truly know the information is to focus on understanding instead of merely memorizing. When you’re stuck on a tough problem or challenging concept while you’re at home studying by yourself, there are plenty of amazing free platforms you can utilize to get online tutoring help or step-by-step explanations on the material. Brainly provides step-by-step guidance and explanations to all questions on its platform, helping students go from questioning to understanding and beyond. Another way to ensure you understand the exam materials ahead of time is to reinforce what you’ve learned by helping explain answers to other students’ questions in subjects you’ve already mastered, which is a core component of Brainly’s peer-to-peer learning community.
- Review Best Practices for Test-Taking. Studying for a test is only half the battle! Taking the test and doing well is also very important, but for some, can be much harder. For this reason, test-taking is a skill that students need to learn for academic success. There are different strategies and best practices for each type of test question (multiple-choice, true or false, essay questions, fill-in-the-blank, matching, and so on). If students are unfamiliar with these, they can turn to this checklist of test-taking strategies for middle and high school students.
- Finally, Take Care of Yourself. In the days leading up to an exam, students should remember to take care of themselves. This means getting a full eight hours of sleep every night, drinking plenty of water, getting adequate amounts of exercise, and packing everything needed for school the night before. Remember that students can think better when they have a full stomach, so don’t skip breakfast the morning of the test. Get to school early and do a ten-minute power study right before the test, so your brain is turned on and tuned up. Pro Tip: Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which can give you more energy and better comprehension. Yoga or a stretching session can help with concentration and focus.
“Not every studying technique works for every student, so experiment with a few of these important study tips to find out which ones work best for you. Test-taking can be a real struggle for many high school students. Even after studying for hours the night before, many students will have anxiety during test time,” says Quinn.