Spring break has ended, which gave high school students a much-needed reprieve from the stressful school day. However, as much as students look forward to this time in the school year, it can also be met with mixed emotions because of the high-pressure testing on the horizon.
In addition to the SAT, ACT, and any other college entrance exams, testing for high schoolers might include benchmark assessments to gauge math and reading growth, as well as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Because of the “high-stakes” mentality associated with these sorts of exams, the weeks leading up to and during testing can be stressful for students, parents, and teachers. However, there are strategies that parents and teachers can use to help high schoolers prepare for and thrive during these tests without becoming overwhelmed by stress or pressure.
High school students can benefit greatly from having solid test-taking strategies to call upon when preparing for high-stakes assessments such as college entrance exams. For study tips and tricks, the success of certain strategies truly depends on the style of learner.
Some kinesthetic learners work best when rewriting, reciting, or copying notes because of the fine motor movement used for writing. Similarly, test review or recitation while passing a soccer ball, walking on the treadmill, or sitting on a yoga ball could also help kinesthetic learners. Students who benefit from movement should ask if stress balls, fidget cubes, or focusing clay would be permitted during testing. Students may also find that something as simple as chewing gum may help to summon information from memory as well.
Students with a verbal inclination can utilize acronyms, rhyme schemes, and other word associations to solidify information into long-term memory. Some word associations become downright ridiculous or silly; however, the more bizarre the acronym or rhyme, the more likely the information will stick in one’s memory. Composing notecards with information on one side and the “word game” or association on the other side helps to cement the information even more.
We all know that cramming does more harm than good when it comes to test preparation. Not only does cramming increase stress and anxiety, but it actually has been shown to disrupt the process of moving information from short term memory to long term memory. Because of the sense of urgency that students are experiencing when cramming, the process does little more than create a “muddy” recollection of the jumbled material.
More and more students are finding success with multiple, brief stints of review over the course of several days or weeks prior to an exam. Research indicates that even in intervals as short as eight minutes at a time, students can memorize and grasp concepts much more efficiently. Not only do the rapid intervals reduce the anxiety of cramming, they aid in recall as well. To test out (no pun intended) this study strategy, students should spend 8-10 minutes organizing notes, outlines, terms, concepts, etc., and begin with the most complex or dire information. High schoolers can then return to the material 30 minutes to an hour later, seeking to reread, summarize, rephrase, or synthesize the small chunk of material that they organized during the previous eight minutes. Each day, students should add another aspect of the study material or exam content to their 8-minute review, and expand on the previous days’ content every few intervals. The key here is to tackle the concepts bit by bit in a logical sense and reasonable timeframe. This way, information builds on itself naturally without the overwhelming sense that comes with cramming.