“How can I get an A on the test?” “What should I do to get a 100% on my next test?”
These are common questions asked by high school students today yet the answers seem to constantly allude many students. If you ask the vast majority of students about what they struggled with or currently struggle with in high school the most you will inevitably hear their biggest challenge was taking tests. In many cases this struggle is coupled and compounded by a serious mix of anxiety and nervousness over the test. Read on to see the list.
What I have put together here is a list of simple suggestions a student can do to prepare better for a unit or chapter test in high school. These tips come from my observations and discussions with students who come into my classroom confident and leave having performed well on the test or assessment. Many of these might sound like common sense to the experienced student, teacher or parent but it is amazing how many times these concepts get overlooked when a student begins trying to study for a test.
If you’re a student looking at this right now and you have a test tomorrow, I hope this helps but I realize some of these ideas won’t really apply to your need for a quick fix. If you need some tips on cramming for a test click here. My suggestion to you, the student who needs this, would be to print this list up, tape it to your folder or desk and try to remember to practice these ideas on a daily or weekly basis. If you are a parent who is wondering what they can do to help their kid do better o a test. First, I’d give them this list you are looking at right now. Second, I also wrote a quick tip guide to parents in hopes of helping them better understand what they can do to help their kids out on tests, click here to check that out.
1. Don’t cram, do a little at a time – Sure this sounds obvious and in reality it is obvious. Studying a little bit at a time over the course of the entire unit is far and away the best plan for truly mastering the material and building confidence in it. Taking the material that you learned that day in class and quickly reviewing it at home for 15-20 minutes each night will pay huge dividends when it comes to test day in class. Far too many times students will try to wait and cram it all in the last night before a test and will become overwhelmed with the amount of material they have to learn in the span of a few short hours. Yes, studying the night before the test is always a good part of the plan but preparing far in advance will be more than worth it. Yet this concept is much, much easier said than done. It requires great personal discipline and focus to do this on a night by night basis. However, if you can master the discipline required this single piece of advice will help a great deal.
2. Figure out what exactly is on the test- This is another one of those obvious yet commonly overlooked ideas that students should always remember. Before you begin studying material for the test your first step should be to determine what concepts from the unit are specifically going to be on the test. Which ideas presented were obviously the most important and will have the largest number of questions on the test? Which ideas are the building blocks of the chapter that everything else builds off? Finding the answers to these questions will provide you with a good idea of what is important to study and focus on in your preparation. How do you find the answers to these questions? The first place I would look is the study guide given to you by your teacher. If you aren’t given one in some form the next step I would take is simply asking the teacher what concepts will be focused on during the test. Don’t be afraid to ask what the most important concepts are. If you can’t seem to get any good information out of the teacher my final suggestion would be to look at your notes, look at the book, and any other material you have to determine what concepts pop up the most and seem to be the most important.
3. Study smarter and harder – Once you have gone through all the trouble of finding out what exactly will be on the test spend your valuable time studying that specific information. Don’t waste your time the night before the test studying a concept that you are quite confident will simply not be on the test or will only have 1 or 2 questions devoted to it. Spend the vast amount of time you will study focused on the concepts you know are important.
4. Build your confidence up – Confidence is a key to being successful in all things in life. School and tests are no different. When you study I recommend students start with the easier material first and then work their way up to the harder, more challenging material. This way you build up confidence in yourself and the material as you go. You won’t get discouraged which is a key point to successful studying. Staying positive and confident in your abilities.
5. Work through every problem yourself – This is a common issue I see amongst students today. They are given a study guide and generally the answers along with it or they get the answers from a friend. Students figure that once they have the answers to the questions on the study guide all they have to do is study those and they will be fine. They rarely seem to realize that the point of the study guide and the path to success on tests is for them to find the answers themselves, study the answer, and master that answer or concept. I’ve never seen someone master a concept for a test by simply looking at a study guide answer. There is no answer provided for you on the test, you have to figure it out. By practicing that at home you are preparing your mind to do well on the test.
6. Create study tools for yourself – There are many different possible study tools that are available for you to use when studying. Some of the obvious ones would be flash cards for vocabulary, mnemonic devices to help you remember things (Ex. Please excuse my dear aunt sally for the order of operations in math class), or rewriting your notes. The best study tool I have found is the concept of you either teaching or explaining an idea to your parents or classmates. If you can successfully teach someone else the concept you are going to do just fine with it on the test.
7. Go to bed, eat breakfast, and lunch – There is no point staying up until 3 in the morning the day of the test to study that one hard problem again after you have already looked at it four times. All you’re doing at that point is lowering your chances of getting an A on the test. Sleep helps a great deal on tests. Studying is important but so is sleep. If you are incoherent because you only got 2 or 3 hours of sleep no amount of caffeine is going to make up for that when it comes to performing on the test. In addition, eat breakfast if the test is in the morning and eat lunch obviously if the test is in the afternoon. When you eat your mind and body can be more focused on taking the test instead of worrying about being hungry or needing energy.
I hope these tips will help you out when it comes to preparing for a test.
If you follow these steps you will be more successful on tests. You will have more confidence in yourself and you will do better. You might not get an A the first time but if you stick with it and you work hard at these ideas you will eventually.
Founder and President of SchoolEdge Mobile Inc., High School Chemistry Teacher, Father, Husband, Michigan State University Graduate