Test and exam strategies made simple

It seems like we just began the new school year yesterday, but I am already receiving emails for strategies on final exams and test taking as the first quarter draws to a close and exams begin to creep closer.
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Oct. 16, 2012 - PRLog -- ear Dr. Fournier:

You recently wrote about breaking down assignments to deal with daily work.  What do we do to help our children prepare for tests and exams?  It didn’t seem like you fully answered the question about specific strategies that we can use.

Jon W
Jackson, TN

Dear Jon:

It seems like we just began the new school year yesterday, but I am already receiving emails for strategies on final exams and test taking as the first quarter draws to a close and exams begin to creep closer.

Let me first and foremost reiterate what I have said in the past about exam preparation:  it should be easy!

"How can she say this?" I can already hear many of you saying.  I say this because what I am going to recommend is to take the exam preparation and spread it out for the entire semester.

When I see students stressed out at the notion of having to take upcoming exams, I have found that the cause is one of three basic reasons:

•they become paralyzed, and are unable to ask the questions that would make a difference in how they prepare.

•they do not know how to organize their notes to review for the final exam, and as a result they try and study everything,

•they have good grades but tank on exams because they used class participation and other activities to make up for their consistently poor performance on finals.

It's time to develop a strategic plan to kick the fear to the curb for this new round of finals.


First and foremost, let's look at what types of things need to be considered as your children prepare:

What is the minimum grade they must make on the exam?

This is important to hitting goals and to understand that different teachers place more weight on the exam and how it affects your children's grades.  All exams are not equal.  Have you child then estimate what score they need to target in order to meet his or her grade goals.

What will be covered on the exam?

This seems like a no brainier, but parents would be surprised to learn how often it is neglected.  Is the test covering recent material only, or material from the entire semester?

What is the format like?

If the exam is multiple choice, then your child will be in position to make practice questions that reflect that format.

Where and why have you lost points on previous tests?

This is a biggie.  Doing this will help your child strategize for future success.  Does she lose points in history for failing to provide enough support information?  Does he miss simple calculations in math because he does not line up his problems, or tries to do them in his head?  If you can find these, then you have found a trend.  Once you find the trend, it is easily dealt with.

What do I know and what have I not learned yet?

This is the other biggie, and is the one that if ignored will lead to cramming.  There is no need to study what you have already learned!  For this to  be truly effective, your child should keep all of his graded tests and quizzes in a hanging file that will collect everything he does that quarter.  When he misses problems or points, that is identified missed learning!  If he goes back and learns this missing material as it is handed back, he will need only to review for his final.

If he has not, or if it is too late in the game to do this, at least pull them out and identify the missed learning so that it becomes the primary focus of your learning, so that you are not going over that which you already know.

What is the best way I learn?

Is it best if you make a song out of formulas?  Do you do well listening to a recording of yourself on your smartphone?  Do you do well with online prep questions?  Are you better at making your own?  Discover what is the most effective way for you and then concentrate on learning in that way.

These should relieve some of the anxiety and fear that come with the threat of final exams.  Good luck, and happy learning!


Have a question about education, education-related issues or your child’s schoolwork or homework? Ask Dr. Fournier and look for her answer in this column. E-mail your question or comment to Dr. Yvonne Fournier at drfournier@hfhw.net.
Source:Dr. Yvonne Fournier
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