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Now that school is well underway, you may have noticed that you are doing less-well on exams than you think you should. You think you know the material but you’re just not being successful on tests. You’re worried, of course.
Taking exams successfully is a skill, just like everything else. A person isn’t born knowing how to do it. And the idea that exams are somehow “experience-neutral” – that it doesn’t matter how much a person knows about how to take a test as much as it matters that he knows what’s on the test – is just bunk. Of course knowledge of a test’s content is important. But a student has to know how to display that knowledge. She has to know how to take a test.
Good test-taking starts with good preparation. Most children don’t understand the cause-and-effect connection between practice and exam results. They don’t realize that studying – and studying effectively – are key activities. So you can help yourself prepare for exams better in five ways:
1. Incremental study. Study a little bit every day, especially in areas you have not done well in the past. Little by little works far better than cramming.
2. Frequent review. Every so often – maybe once a week – have a review session. What are the big ideas presented in the class so far? What areas are you still fuzzy on?
3. Take practice tests. If practice tests are available – as they are for the SAT and ACT – use them. If possible, make up your own practice tests. This is especially helpful in math.
4. Create your own test questions. As part of your weekly review, create some questions that might be on the next test. If you were the teacher, what would she ask?
5. Review test results. It’s a temptation to just stuff quiz results into the Trapper Keeper and just move on without looking at what went right and what went wrong. But if improving test-taking is the goal, you need to figure out how you’re getting the grades you’re getting.
All of this works best when you keep things light and unstressful.
You can help yourself do better on exams just by being positive. There’s a big emotional component to any achievement. The old saying, “If you think you can, you can but if you think you can’t your right!” is true. Believing you can do it is essential.
Keep in mind that your child is not you. Certainly you want her to do well, but you cannot make her do well. You cannot take her tests for her. Your role is one of teacher, guide, supporter and cheerleader.
Fill those roles to the best of your ability. That’s the best way to help your child.
© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.