As students enter the second half of the school year, it is a good time to look at ways to help them maximize performance on unit and midterm tests throughout the school year, as well as the state end-of-instruction and criterion-referenced tests they take each spring, and, for older students, tests for college admission.
Developing good test prep techniques not only supports better test performance, it helps a student develop self-discipline and perseverance for success in education that will serve well throughout elementary and high school, college, and the world of work. Parents can play a key role in support of students' examination preparation by helping them organize their notes and review for exams — and students may feel better knowing someone is supporting them in their task.
While there are many tips and techniques for preparing for exams or standardized tests, here are a few for students to apply:
Take good notes in classroom sessions and when reading textbook assignments. Find a method that works for organizing notes.
Review notes soon after class and again briefly before the next class session. Briefly map out the important ideas and the relationships between them. Summarize notes with lists, hierarchies of ideas, or other visual frameworks.
Schedule some time at the end of the week for a longer review. Create study checklists by identifying all material to be tested — formulas, ideas, and text assignments. These checklists help to break study time into organized, manageable blocks, which should allow for a comprehensive review plan with minimal anxiety.
Organize notes, texts, and assignments according to what the teacher said would be on the test.
Develop a study schedule by estimating the time needed to review materials. Create flash cards for definitions, formulas, or lists that need to be memorized — put topics on one side of the card and topics with answers on the other. Creating flash cards helps identify important information and strengthen the ability to retrieve information from memory.
Finish studying the day before the exam. Don't wait until the last minute. A good night's sleep the night before and a good breakfast is also part of testing success.
In planning for college, sophomore and junior students also need to plan to take either the American College Test (ACT) or Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) assessment required for admission into the majority of U.S. colleges.
Time spent reviewing key concepts, taking practice tests, and becoming familiar with the requirements for the tests helps students score better and can translate directly into college scholarship money. For many colleges one more point can equal $1,000.
While taking the exam costs money, statistics show that 57 percent of students who take the ACT more than once — 12 times is the limit set by ACT — increase their score. In the long run, it may be worth the extra time and cost to take the exam again. Check with the school counselor for exam fees and available fee waivers.
Tests are a demonstration of a student's ability to understand concepts, skills and information. Preparation for tests begins with introduction of the content in class and patterns of studying and there are many resources to help students prepare for tests, cope with test anxiety and develop good study habits, such as websites: studygs.net/lcturnote, testpreparationweb.com, greatschools.org/test-prep, onlinetestprep.com and ok.gov/sde/test-support-teachers-and-administrators.
Information on where the ACT and SAT exams are given, costs, registration, preparation and other information can be found on the ACT website, actstudent.org, or the SAT website, sat.collegeboard.org. Parents can support their students and not leave test taking to chance. Ideally, learning to study and taking tests in school will help students be better prepared for the “tests” of adulthood.
Leslie Williams is director of the K20 Center at the University of Oklahoma. This column is offered by the K20 Center Gear Up for SUCCESS and PROMISE programs. For more information about the programs, go to k20center.ou.edu. For more about college preparation, go to www.OKcollegestart.org or call 225-9239.