With exam time just around the corner, we’ve compiled some tips to help teachers advise students how to study effectively for their tests.
It’s the time of year where students are at their most attentive in the classroom and there is a good chance they will start asking a lot of queries around exams for each subject. It’s good for teachers to encourage them to ask these questions, and where possible, hold a review session to go over the course work. That doesn’t mean standing in front of the class and talking at the students, it can be made fun.
One way to have students actively engage with the material is to have them set quizzes for each other. Have them grade each other’s papers and have them discuss incorrect answers. If many students are getting the same questions wrong, this will highlight areas for teachers to go over the work again more thoroughly.
However, the onus of most of the exam preparation falls on the students and there are several tips teachers can give them to make sure they make the best of their available time.
Rania Hussein, Head of Senior School at GEMS World Academy – Dubai emphasised that students need to make a schedule.
“A basic plan that says ‘study biography’ for an hour on Sunday is not enough. They need to give themselves enough time to fit all their content and outline exactly what they are going to study. For example, on Sunday, between 8-10am commit to studying unit 1.2 of Biology and be able to explain fully the three main principles of that unit. Students’ study schedules should be detailed, realistic, and visually appealing and they should stick to it. During their study leave students shouldn’t worry too much about the number of hours they need to study, they should focus on the content to cover and level of understanding they need to reach.”
During their study leave students shouldn’t worry too much about the number of hours they need to study, they should focus on the content to cover and level of understanding they need to reach. — Rania Hussein, Head of Senior School at GEMS World Academy – Dubai
It’s also important for students to prioritise their study time. Some exams may be more difficult to study for than others, while some subjects may just come easier to the student. Students know where their weak points are, so allocating more time to those areas is wise. They should also keep the type of exam in mind — multiple choice exams generally require a solid knowledge of definitions and concepts, while essays will require a broader comprehension of the topic with supporting examples or case studies to illustrate that understanding.
Within their study schedule, students should also slot appropriate time for breaks. They won’t be able to digest and remember all the information in one sitting, so it is important for them to balance their time. There are many advocates of the Pomodoro Technique, where a student sets a timer for 25 minutes and in that time works exclusively on studying one topic. Once the timer goes off, they should take a five-minute break. This timing cycle should be repeated four times and thereafter they should take a 15-minute break. This method helps to maximise concentration and decrease distractions.
There is no one-size-fits-all rule to making study notes — they’re as individual as the learner. But if their studying has hit a slump, students may need to give their methods a bit of a shakeup. A good way to do this is to reorganise their notes, paying attention to important concepts, formulae, and dates so they become easier to understand. If the subject itself is starting to get a bit stale, students should consider switching to another subject entirely to avoid boredom and burnout. Colour coding work that will be covered in the exam by most least important will help students to focus on pertinent material and prioritise information.
Studying also doesn’t have to mean sitting at a desk, bleary-eyed while trying to remember everything that will be covered in the exam. In fact, Rania said: “People retain 10% of what they read, 30% of what they see, and 90% of what they do. ‘Doing’ means rereading textbooks, taking notes using words the student understands, and then presenting or teaching that information to someone else. Maybe their brother has some free time and wants to listen to a discussion on negative externalities, or their sister is willing to sit through a summary of the history of modern Italy. In the worst case, a student can sit in front of a mirror and explain it to their reflection. They need to do what they need to do!”
Finally, Rania added that it is important that students understand that these exams don’t define them or their self-worth, but the ability to do their best does reflect their character.