Ways to Build Your Child's Test Prep Muscles this Summer

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School may be over, but parental anxiety doesn't get a vacation! Here's a recent call that came into the SOS4Students' offices, and the issues are all too common: "My son needs help with test preparation. His test grades are low and he doesn't seem to have any idea how to study. Can you work with him over the summer?"

boy studying

Using summer time to help students improve skills such as getting ready for tests is good parental thinking, but how can this be done when students have no homework and no exams?

Poor test performance is often wrongly attributed to test anxiety. While students may well be stressed about tests, problems on test day usually are directly linked to problems with preparation. Key areas where student missteps lead to poor test performance may include:

  • Weak comprehension of material (may be due to complexity or sheer volume of material)
  • Absence of note taking or inadequate notes that don't act as an effective study tool (list of bullet-pointed facts )
  • Waiting too long and studying material for the first time too close to the test date
  • Trying to do too much at once instead of breaking up information and studying incrementally
  • Using a preparation modality that doesn't work for the student (highlighting, for example, has not proven to be effective as a study strategy or skimming over text without paraphrasing or recapping).

Most of these issues with test prep boil down to problems with planning and prioritizing, information organization, and note taking. Effective test preparation is not intuitive nor is note taking, which is often neither assigned nor taught—and yet skills in these areas are essential for student success. 

Some of us are better test takers than others, and for many of us, test success is subject dependent. Whatever is harder needs more time and effort to learn.

Working On Test Prep Skills Over The Summer Is Optimal

While there are no actual tests in the works for most students (except those in summer school), students can build their test preparation "muscles" over the summer by working on calendaring, planner use, making decisions about priorities, chunking material, creating a study guide from text, and, importantly, taking organized and effective notes while reading or listening to a presentation.

Explicit instruction is essential! I see many soon-to-be college students who admit that they got through high school without taking many notes at all and with little conception of how to prepare for a college level essay exam requiring critical reading of dense text.

What Is The Best Way To Ensure Better Grades On Tests?

Research shows that creating questions and mini quizzes/tests (shared with friends, too) that mimic the test to come is actually the optimal approach. Creating such study tools is an essential skill for students. 

You can also take advantage of summer time and provide opportunities for students with weak test scores in school to develop the skills they need with the help of a coach. 

Students can work with a coach 1-on-1 at SOS4Students in 2 or 4 summer sessions, or even take a workshop. All of our summer programs include work on planning, time management, organization, and note taking. 

We start with the basics for students entering 6th grade with Mastering Middle School, and students entering 9th grade with note taking practice and a final exam preparation seminar as part of Nailing Ninth. We also offer a workshop focused just on note taking, The Secrets of Successful Note Taking.

You can check out all SOS4Students summer offerings, including our fantastic writing workshops here: 


Early booking is encouraged.

Beth Samuelson

Learning Study Strategies Pays Off Big Time in High School, College, and Beyond

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As a high school sophomore, Charlie Rosenthal recognized, along with his parents, that he needed help learning to take notes, organize his studies, and manage his time more effectively. He applied what he learned during his time with SOS4Students to boost his High School GPA and then to make the Deam's list his first semester at College! Congratulations Charlie, and congratulations to all of those other students who have worked with SOS4Students over the years (and to all those yet to come) who share similar challenges and results.

happy students

How Academic Coaching Changed My Life

by Charlie Rosenthal

I remember my first day in that small, windowed office in Walnut Creek. It was my first time meeting Beth Samuelson and beginning my time with SOS4Students. I didn't know it then, but for the next two and a half years I would engage in regular coaching with Beth and learn skills to help me finish high school on a high note and get into the college of my choosing.


I was nearing the end of my sophomore year of high school and I had a D+ in AP European History.

It wasn't the class content that I needed help with, though. Missing assignments were bleeding my grade. But I was so against the notion of getting help—my parents made me go to SOS4Students kicking and screaming—that it took crashing and burning for me to understand, finally, that it was time. Looking back now, I couldn't be more thankful that my parents hung tough!

While it was too late to salvage a fantastic grade in AP Euro, Beth helped me get a 4.0 on the exam and get college credit for a class I might have very well failed otherwise.

Studying Smarter

The skills that Beth and SOS4Students teach aren't just for school. The critical thinking and content processing that I learned throughout my two and a half years of coaching are applicable to any job, any career, and were absolutely invaluable then . . . and now. You see, Beth doesn't make kids study longer or harder. She teaches them how to study smarter.

I've come to realize that time management and effective study habits are the greatest assets I have, and they've made my entire life more manageable.

I was the typical kid that Beth sees. I've had ADD for as long as I can remember, and school was always difficult for me—not because I didn't understand the material, but because I just didn't care about the assignments I missed. I see it all the time, really smart kids who have ADD/ADHD who struggle with their grades due to a lack of organization.

The approach I've seen most parents take is to make their kids study longer, or try to be hands on and do their work with them. I could not advise against doing that more: your kids need to fail because it's how they'll learn.

Results Speak for Themselves

So what, exactly, did I learn through the coaching from SOS4Students?

I learned how to . . .

  • Take notes efficiently
  • Separate important information from the irrelevant
  • Study effectively and not waste time.

In high school, I had a cumulative GPA of around 2.8. After Beth's coaching, I managed to get a 3.75 my first semester at Indiana University and make the Dean's list.

There's nothing wrong with children not knowing how to study, because no school teaches them how to. Learning those critical thinking skills has helped me succeed in so many ways, and I'm so thankful to Beth and her organization for their coaching.

I often wonder where I'd be if I never went through those years of training. I'd have lower grades certainly, but even more than that, I doubt I'd have gotten into the college that I did.

If your child fits the classic description as I did, I highly recommend giving SOS4Students a try. It changed my life . . . and it very well may change your child's life too.

SOS4Students Offers Solutions

You can get a jumpstart on the school year by using the upcoming summer to improve your child's study habits, tools, and approaches with our workshops and unique summer coaching program.

Learn More About SOS4Students Summer Workshops
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Summer Coaching is a great way to learn new strategies without the pressures of homework.
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Early booking is encouraged.