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?"
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.