We are reaching the end of the school year and many students need to take final exams. Unfortunately, too many students have never learned effective study strategies to prepare. Even worse, many of us as parents and educators are giving bad advice when we say things like “re-read your notes” or “look over the study guide.”
Effective studying is more than putting information into the brain. Students have to practice getting that information back on demand. Simply looking over and re-reading frustrates students and usually doesn’t result in better exam grades.
Fortunately there is a solution that will make studying more effective (and hopefully less boring.)
You may know I co-host a weekly education podcast with Gretchen Wegner, an expert in learning theory and effective study skills. I’m sharing a few of our top episodes on preparing for final exams. Hopefully you and your student will find a handful of tips to make this year’s finals less stressful and result in better overall grades.
189: How to Make an Anti-Cram Plan for Final Exams
We all know it’s bad to cram for finals. It is bad for your brain and usually creates more stress and panic than results. But what should you do instead? Plan, of course! (And start thinking about studying differently– make it an ongoing system rather an end of the semester, term, or unit cram.)
During this episode of the podcast, Gretchen, my co-host who is a study skills expert, walks us through the steps to get ready to rock your finals, including:
- Mistakes teachers & students make when preparing for exams
- Why the Study Cycle is so important, and how to teach it to students
- What the Study Senses are, and how to incorporate them into your study plan
- A simple formula for how to learn, so students can identify and fix their weakest link, and
- How to create a final exam study plan that (hopefully) kicks cramming to the curb
134: Easy Tips for Prepping for Finals Over the Holidays
We recorded this episode before winter break last school year, so the title refers to fall semester finals, but the information is relevant to spring exams as well.
Listen to find out:
- How to put in more effort to studying without feeling like you’re working too hard
- The importance of testing yourself using “spaced retrieval”, and a few simple ways to do this over the holidays
- How to get yourself organized so you don’t waste time later finding important study tools
- A crucial tip for how to use your notes so that you’re actually learning (rather than just faking it)
- and more!
084: Everything You Need to Know to Rock Your Finals
It’s time to study for final exams! Are you ready?
In this episode, Gretchen outlines 7 tips for how to plan and study for your finals, while saving time to have some fun too. Here’s the short version of Gretchen’s tips; tune into the podcast for more details about how to put them into action.
- Map out your entire approach to final exams on one page, so you can see it all at once.
- Plan in breaks so you don’t forget to have fun
- Practice breaking down each final exam into actionable parts, so that you’re clear exactly what you need to do each day to study.
- Organize all your papers and supplies so that you locate notes, worksheets, and old tests that can serve as quizzable study tools.
- Study in the manner of the test, and plan backwards.
- Build in incentives so you follow through with your plan.
- Create clear study routines that are attached to a) things you already do or b) things you like doing.
014: How to Study So Well You are 100% Ready for Every Test
Tests are boring to study for and stressful to take.
But they are the key to good grades…and to effective learning (according to some studies). In this episode, Gretchen lays out four key techniques that help students get great tests grades much more often with less stress.
1. Think Like a Teacher. Too often we assume that teachers are the ones who do the teaching, and kids are simply passive recipients. However, studying is a time when students are actually in charge of their own learning, and so it can help for students to think of study time as teaching time. It is very helpful to learn how to think actively about how learning works, the way teachers do, and the next three techniques are examples of how to do this.
2. Study in the Manner of the Test. This may seem like a “no duh” point, but studies prove that students perform better on tests when the way they study looks exactly like the format of the test. Gretchen explains in detail how students can apply this technique to their study processes. She also refers to Quizlet as an effective tool for creating your own multiple choice tests.
3. Make a Quizzable Study Tool. Too often students fail to think about how they can prove to themselves that they have mastered the information and skills on which they will be tested. An answer to this is to create a study tool that is formatted in such a way that they can easily test themselves. Gretchen describes several different types of study tools, and how students can use them to prove that they are ready for the test.
4. Plan Backwards. Too often students simply start studying, flipping through text book pages and notes as a way to study. A more effective process is to work backwards, understanding what content and skills will be on the test, planning your quizzable study tool, and calendaring the specific actions you are going to take to study. Gretchen explains in more detail how to create a Backwards Plan for yourself before every test.
Take a little time to make sure you are studying effectively for your remaining exams!