Exam Study Tips That Can Really Make a Difference
The further along in their education a child progresses, the more essential for developing the skills to do well on exams becomes. Exams are a central part of the curriculum in middle schools and high schools across Ontario, and in many cases, a significant portion of a student’s final grade will be a result of how well they do on mid-term and final exams.
This is not only true in the sciences and math, where exams are the main method by which competence is measured and judged, but even the curriculum of more composition-oriented disciplines like history, social studies, and literature.
For this reason, one of the most important skills a young student can learn is how to prepare for exams in a way that helps ensure a positive outcome without requiring an overwhelming investment of time.
Don’t Just Learn the Material, Learn the Test
It is a truism in the world of education that exam taking involves two separate competencies: not only do students need to understand the particular material about which they are being tested, they also need to understand how to excel in the test format itself.
While looking at exam preparation study tips can be incredibly helpful in terms of helping students study effectively, it is also important for students to be able to read a test with an eye to understanding what kind of answers it is looking for, and how they can provide them.
A student who has a deep knowledge of the course material can still do poorly on an exam if they are careless about time management, or if they do not understand the particular requirements of different portions of the exam itself. Test taking is itself a skill, and one that students should work to develop early on in their academic careers.
While we have offered must have study-tips on this blog in the past to help students use their study time more effectively, today we have prepared some new tips specifically designed to help students sharpen their test-taking skills. While there is no magic formula to test taking — and there is no substitute for the hard work of studying — there are a few things every student can due to improve their effectiveness as exam-takers.
1. Start the Exam by Reviewing Each Section
One of the biggest problems students run into when taking long exams is that they often give themselves insufficient time for each section. Two or three hours may seem like ample time to get through all the material, but at the high school level most exams are designed to take up the entire period, so budgeting your time carefully is essential if you don’t want to run out of time.
In most subjects (especially in the academic stream), tests will be divided into multiple choice, short answer, and long answer sections. In chemistry, physics, and biology, you may also need to identify the parts of a diagram or plot formulas on a graph. Calculating how long each of these sections will take and then divvying up time accordingly may take a few minutes at the top of the exam, but it will pay dividends later on by helping to ensure that every section is completed in a timely fashion.
2. Get Test Prep Help From a Tutor
While students are on their own when it comes time to actually take the exam, having some extra help in the weeks leading up to it can have a huge impact, especially if they have access to a tutor who can help them work through practice exams and provide them with helpful pointers on how to manage their time.
Engaging a tutor isn’t just useful if you have a child who is struggling in school; tutors can be great coaches for any student who wants a little more help sharpening their test taking skills so they can reach their full academic potential. For information about how you can find a tutor in your area, contact us to learn more about our tutoring philosophy and the different ways our tutors can help with test prep.
3. Do a Memory Dump
A memory dump can be a helpful way to start an exam with the knowledge you need in front of you. In a memory dump, you start the exam by writing out some of the key information you believe you will need to have at your fingertips.
Once you’ve reviewed the different sections of the exam and know how long you need for each, you can write down the formulas, terms, or even quotes that you plan on using in your answers. This will help stimulate your memory, and can organically lead into answering some of the harder questions while the knowledge is fresh.
4. Focus on the Curriculum
Exams exist to test students on what they’ve learned, so the best way to prepare for an exam is to think critically about what the main learning objectives of a unit or course have been. For example, if a language arts class spent a lot of time focussing on the classic five-part essay structure, there is a good chance that students will be expected to reproduce this information on the exam.
This means that a question asking students to write an essay comparing 1984 to Brave New World is really asking students to demonstrate their understanding of this five-part structure, rather than testing them on their in-depth literary knowledge of these novels.
Test taking is, for most students, a stressful experience, but according to some experts, levels of anxiety around test taking among students are rising. Perhaps this is unsurprising, given how much is riding on this one measure of academic ability.
Fortunately, as with things like math anxiety, there are ways to help students prepare themselves in advance so that they feel more in control of the situation, and better able to perform. It is important to remember that most students who attend class and do their homework will actually have a fairly good command of the information they are being given — the challenge is in demonstrating this knowledge in the high stress conditions of an exam.
By learning to allocate time strategically, do memory dumps, focus on the curriculum, and work through practice tests with a tutor, your child can develop the practical skills that will help them build their confidence and unlock their academic potential.
Tutoring and the Study Cycle
How do we learn, and how can we use what we know about the brain to learn more effectively? For researchers in the psychology of learning, these questions are of paramount importance, and finding answers to them can help educators unlock their students’ potential and help them learn more efficiently.
One of the central insights this branch of psychology has yielded is that some study patterns and approaches are much more effective than others; simply working hard and spending a lot of time studying is often not enough to lock new information into the long-term memory. This is where the Study Cycle comes in.
A series of steps that have been shown to help students take in, process, and remember new information, the Study Cycle is often used by universities to help new students develop strong independent study habits; but it can also be an immensely helpful tool for children at the primary and secondary levels. Indeed, one of the benefits of hiring a private tutor is that tutors can help children build the good study habits that come with an understanding of the Study Cycle, equipping them to handle self-directed independent study on their own when they are no longer living at home.
The Study Cycle is most often portrayed as consisting of five discrete steps that, taken together, help students incorporate new knowledge into their understanding of the world. These steps can be carried out over the course of a single day, or over a longer period of time. But the key is to incorporate new information through active repetition and retrieval.
Before class begins, students should skim new material and take note of new concepts and major points that they will be encountering in the upcoming lesson. This will prime them for the new information they are about to be introduced to, and will help them understand the broad strokes of what they are about to learn.
It also helps them to formulate any questions they might have early on, and gives them an opportunity to test the limits of their own knowledge. Previewing material doesn’t need to take long, and can be done in the morning before class.
Attending classes is obviously a vital part of learning at the primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels. If a student is skipping classes, it is going to be hard for them to keep up with new material and truancy almost inevitably leads to decreased performance and falling grades.
But it isn’t enough for students to simply show up to class. While the 21st century has seen no shortage of new teaching methods for the digital classroom the fundamentals remain the same: students will retain information best when they are actively involved. Taking notes is an essential dimension of learning.
As pedagogy experts Francoise Boch and Annie Piolat argue in their summary of the research into note taking and learning, taking notes is actually a sophisticated activity that helps students process new information as they are introduced to it, learn to recognize the essential points, and also gives them valuable writing practice. Attendance isn’t just about showing up — it’s about participating in the learning process.
Scientists who study memory have noted that in order to transfer a piece of information from short-term to long-term memory, repetition over time is important. After class is finished, it is a good idea to have students briefly review what they learned. Bringing it to mind again will help fill in gaps, and can help develop the pathways of retrieval that fosters real learning.
Every step of the Study Cycle serves an important purpose, but none is as misunderstood as the fourth step: studying. It’s common for parents to require their children to do a certain amount of homework every night, and while it is good to built study time into the day, it is equally important to make sure that study time is being used wisely.
Experts agree that short periods of intense studying are much more valuable than long cram sessions, so trying to fit in thirty minutes to an hour every day is far more effective than spending several hours the night before a test.
If you child needs extra help, hiring a tutor can help you get the most out of these study periods, as a tutor can help students build confidence in their ability to understand the material. If you are interested in finding out how a tutor might help your child succeed, check this out to learn more about our teaching philosophy and practices.
Learning isn’t just about memorizing new information: it is also about making it useful by incorporating it into your child or teen’s understanding of the world. The final step in the study cycle is checking to see whether the information has actually been incorporated, and learning by teaching is a great way to do this is. Having your child try to teach the material to someone else is a great way to test their own understanding.
If you find a tutor in your area who can work with your child on a one-to-one basis, they can help make this process a little more personal. Tutoring is most effective when the tutor plays the role of a peer, a smart friend who can come alongside the student and help them master the material, rather than another authority figure who is providing them with information.
The end goal of learning is to provide your child with information they can use in the real world, so providing them with a tutor who can help them practice checking new information is a great way to ensure that they understand the curriculum material.
Studying smart is just as important as studying hard, and the Study Cycle is scientifically proven to help students lock in new information as efficiently as possible. Tutors can play an important role in implementing the study cycle with your child, so if you are interested in learning more about our approach, get in touch with us today.
5 Scientifically Proven Methods to Make Learning More Efficient and Fun
Keeping children invested and engaged in learning is a day-to-day struggle for most parents and one that can seem overwhelming. With so many distractions vying for a child’s time, instilling the values of discipline and the virtues of curiosity isn’t easy.
This is why it is important to use study strategies that have been scientifically proven to get results. If you want to find ways to make learning more efficient and fun for your kids, here are five methods that can help you — and your children — succeed.
1. Avoid Multitasking
More than ever before, we live in a mediated world. Even adults have a hard time going an hour without checking social media or looking at something on their phones, and issues like “smartphone addiction” are now being recognized as serious problems. This poses a particular threat to children, who are increasingly struggling to pay the kind of deep attention that is needed in order to learn complicated concepts.
The single most important thing you can do to improve your child’s study habits is to get rid of distractions. Sustained, intensive study for short periods of time is far more effective than longer study periods that are constantly being interrupted by Snapchat and text messages.
If you want to improve the quality of your child’s study time, you might also want to consider hiring a tutor who will keep them focussed on the task at hand (you can click here to get more info about how to find a tutor in the Greater Toronto Area).
2. Connect Learning to Everyday Life
One of the biggest challenges any educator faces is connecting the sometimes abstract and theoretical aspects of a school curriculum to a student’s life and interests. Literacy may be one of the most essential skills a child will ever learn, but in an age of emojis, instructional videos, and video games, it can be hard to convince students that being able to read at a high level of comprehension is important.
This is born out by the numbers: Canada is currently facing a decline in literacy and numeracy, and has fallen in international rankings when compared to countries like South Korea, Japan, and the Netherlands.
For this reason, it is essential to help make the connection between practical skills like reading, writing, and arithmetic and the things your child already enjoys. Try to find books, articles, and websites with content that will appeal to them, and engage them creatively through activities like writing a screenplay for their own Marvel movie. If you are interested in finding other ways to help your child develop a love of reading, you can click here for more practical strategies for literacy development.
3. Study Multiple Subjects a Day
There is a tendency among students to want to block their time and focus on one subject for a longer period. While this method can be effective when learning some things (when writing essays, for example, it is a good idea to spend as much time as possible in an uninterrupted state of flow), when it comes to memorizing facts or learning a new language, it can be much more effective to parcel the task out into manageable periods.
For example, if your child is studying Math, French, History, and Biology, they are going to need to do a lot of memorization. If they only have an hour of studying time a day, or five hours a week, it will be far more useful to use an interleaving technique and split the study time up into half hour parcels, studying Math and French one day and History and Biology the next. This means they will never go more than two days without working on each subject, and will be able to direct their study time more effectively.
Furthermore, because each individual study session is only taking on a small and manageable amount of new information, it is easier to get students motivated and to keep them from getting discouraged.
4. Learn Through Teaching
One of the reasons our education philosophy is so interactive is because we believe that most students learn best when they have someone to bounce ideas off of. A tutor should be like a smart friend who can help make studying less tedious and more engaging, not only because this will make studying more fun, but also because it has been proven to help learning outcomes.
Learning through teaching — a method by which the student tries to teach the information they have just learned to someone else — is proven to be extremely effective, and having a tutor on hand gives your child the opportunity to try out their knowledge on someone who also understands the material. The tutor can gently correct any mistakes or misunderstandings, while also providing the student with an attentive and friendly audience.
This will help your child build confidence in their own learning and communication abilities, and will help them develop secondary skills like giving presentations. Who knows — they may love the experience so much they will want to become a Prep Academy Tutor themself further down the road!
5. Take Notes
Note taking is one of the single best practices a student can incorporate into their study strategy. Not only does note taking serve a practical purpose by providing a record of the material that was covered in class, it also helps develop critical thinking and writing skills, because it forces students to focus on the most important points in the lesson.
Note taking also keeps students alert and engaged in class, so even if a teacher provides the slides and lecture notes for the class, students should still take notes of their own.
As most teachers will tell you, students are not actually opposed to learning, given the right conditions. In fact, when it comes to subjects they love, children quickly become experts. What is often lacking is a sense of purpose, motivation, and structure, which is what these five teaching methods and tips can, when applied by an experienced tutor, provide.
How Much of a Difference Does Tutoring Really Make?
For students who are struggling in school, tutoring is often touted as a great way to help them focus on their academic work and provide the one-on-one help they need to master difficult curriculum material. But how much of a difference does a tutor actually make? This is a valid question, and one that any responsible parent should ask before engaging the services of a tutor.
To answer it, however, it is important to understand that not all tutoring services are equal. A tutor who doesn’t have the right training and experience cannot be expected to transform your child’s academic performance; at best, they offer no value added, and at worst they can encourage study habits that are actually damaging.
When looking for a tutor, it is important to go with a tutoring service that works with experts, professors, and teachers who have a thorough knowledge of their particular subject. It is also important to ensure that when you hire a private tutor you are getting an individual who understands the particular needs of your student, and can use modern pedagogical methods to ensure good education outcomes.
At Prep Academy Tutors, we hire knowledgeable, experienced tutors who can teach students from JK to Grade 12. We work with your child’s specific class curriculum to ensure the best outcomes, and we hold ourselves to the highest standards of educational excellence so that your child can achieve their full potential. To this end, when we first start working with a new family we ensure at the onset that the teacher or tutor we suggest has the experience and skillset necessary to help your child succeed.
The 3 Ways Tutoring Can Make a Difference
Numerous studies have shown that the individual one-on-one attention that comes with tutoring really does make a difference. Students who are given an opportunity to go over difficult material at their own pace with a knowledgeable, certified teacher are far more likely to see real growth and learning.
And this is how Prep Academy Tours works — our tutors use methods that are scientifically proven to be effective, and focus on the particular needs of each individual child. Here are three reasons why engaging tutoring from Prep Academy Tutors gets concrete results:
1. Tutoring Provides Students With a Safe Space
A teacher who is responsible for a classroom needs to project authority. But a tutor who is working one-on-one with a struggling student should be more like a peer, a smart friend who can come alongside them and help them deal with math anxiety or make sense of their French homework.
One of the most important ways tutoring makes a difference is by helping students encounter challenging ideas and concepts in a safe, supportive context where they can make mistakes and explore without worrying that they will look foolish in front of their peers.
2. Tutoring Lets Students Focus on Their Own Areas of Weakness
Not all students struggle with the same material, and this makes classroom teaching a delicate balancing act where teachers try to provide as much help to as many people as possible. A student struggling with one part of the curriculum may not get the time they need in class to focus on it, and may not have enough of a grasp of the underlying concepts to study it effectively in their own time. Tutors can help students overcome their personal hurdles and focus on the topics and problems they actually need help with.
3. Tutoring Helps Students Develop Good Study Habits
Most of us are familiar with the old adage that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime. This is true of studying as well: learning how to learn is one of the most important things an education should impart. Because tutors work more intensively with students, they can help them cultivate good study habits and develop strategies they will be able to use for years to come.
If you want your child to benefit from the enhanced, personalized help that comes with tutoring from a certified teacher, get in touch with Prep Academy Tutors today!
Tutoring Doesn’t Just Help the Student
While there is ample evidence proving that tutoring can play a transformative role in the life of a student, tutors also benefit from the intensive one-on-one experience of helping someone else work through a curriculum and strengthen their own learning skills.
If you are interested in becoming a tutor yourself, find out how you can join our team and unlock your own potential as an educator. Tutoring is an immensely rewarding career for teachers who want to help students in a more one-on-one context, and as the University of Hawai‘i Community College has shown, working as a tutor has been shown to help provide an even deeper grounding in one’s knowledge of a subject, provides skills acquisition and enforcement, and can play a significant role in career development.
If you care about teaching and want to be part of a team that is passionate about helping individual students reach their full potential, get in touch with Prep Academy Tutors today!
It is a widely acknowledged truth that every student has their own learning style and learns at their own pace. While some students may function better in a classroom environment than others, all students can benefit from the one-on-one attention and personalized approach that comes with tutoring.
Tutoring has been proven to make a huge difference for students of all walks of life, so if you are interested in hiring a tutor, or you think you may want to become a tutor yourself, call Prep Academy Tutors to learn more about how tutoring can make a difference for you.
5 Strategies For Building Strong Study and Organizational Skills
Written by Nick Mehring of Prep Academy Tutors of Kitchener-Waterloo
For parents and teachers alike, it can be incredibly frustrating to see the self-sabotage that sometimes goes on when a student lacks positive study habits and organizational skills. For many bright students, it’s not uncommon for them to be able to simply coast through entire grades and subject areas with little to no effort put into studying or organization. For others, developing those skills as early as possible can be a crucial aspect of their academic success. Regardless of where your student or child may fall on this spectrum, promoting positive study habits and organizational skills from a young age is essential to ensure that they are set up for success at higher levels of education and in daily life, even if it seems like they are getting by without them. The following list highlights five of the best strategies to promote these crucial skills in children and students of all ages.
1) Start Young by Helping to Build Foundational Learning Skills
Play “academic” games with your toddler. Read aloud to them, put together puzzles, play counting games, math games and games that promote their creativity. Through play-based activities, you begin to set your child up for strong study skills in their future . As your child gets older, place an emphasis on routine when it comes to homework . Do your best to have dinner around the same time each day and set aside time especially devoted to homework. At this time it’s beneficial to relay the importance of designating a space for homework. Have your child help to co-create a space which they feel comfortable with. Stock the room with all of the supplies they might need for completing homework and ensure they are free from distractions while they are in that space . As your child gets better over time at sticking to this routine, begin to pass more responsibility for completing their homework onto them including where and how they can find resources to help them if they get stuck .
2) Model Effective Organizational Skills from an Early Age
One of the best ways to do this is to use a family calendar. Track everyone’s activities on the calendar and include your child in the process. When they are old enough to do so, encourage them to make their own entries . Another strategy is to assign chores and tasks to your child that involve sorting, categorizing and pre-planning. Cook together and follow recipes, allow them to help plan grocery lists, and plan family trips and activities with the input of your child . All of these things add up, and over time will help to promote organizational skills necessary for success later in life.
3) Encourage the Use of Time Management and Organizational Tools
At a certain age, planners are a must. Many schools give these out at the start of the year. Make sure to constantly encourage your child to develop a habit to use them. For older students, writing a daily list either in their planner or somewhere else can be incredibly effective in increasing productivity and keeping them on track . Once this has become habit, have them use a simple ranking system to prioritize the list. Another highly effective strategy for disorganized students is to get them thinking visually. Colour-coded notebooks that signify different subjects or priority levels can be a difference maker in terms of getting students to stay on top of things . Finally, teach students the value of chunking tasks into more manageable bits. One example is to use the first, next, last strategy where you break tasks into three much more reasonable steps .
4) Teach Self-Regulation and Discipline
As students get older, it becomes much more important for them to learn to properly manage distractions in order to stay on task. During study or homework time, encourage them to learn to control their social media and phone usage. For some, this means removing the phone entirely from the room they are in. If they feel like they have no willpower to control this on their own, introduce them to things like AntiSocial, an app that restricts access on their phone during scheduled times . During studying and homework time, the television should be off. If your child or student enjoys listening to music when they complete their homework, encourage them to listen to music in the 50 to 80 beats per minute range. Music like this has been shown to help focus the mind by stimulating alpha brain waves — just make sure the volume isn’t turned up too loud.
5) Student Mindset Matters
Many students view homework or studying as a required task, instead of as an opportunity to learn. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however research has shown that having a positive mindset during study and homework time can greatly increase the positive effects of the activity — in other words, mindset matters . If a student is very clearly upset, anxious or distracted by a problem going on in their life, it might be beneficial to forgo the studying until that issue is resolved. More often than not, if you try to force your student or child into studying when there’s something big looming on their minds, you’re likely setting them up for frustration instead of learning.
 “5 Ways to Build Strong Study Habits at an Early Age.” Huntington Learning Center. March 23, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://huntingtonhelps.com/resources/blog/5-ways-to-build-strong-study-habits-at-an-early-age.
 “Homework and Study Habits: Tips for Kids and Teenagers.” Child Development Institute. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/learning/tips-for-helping-kids-and-teens-with-homework-and-study-habits/#.XJzFhC3Mw6h.
 “12 Ways to Develop Your Child’s Organizational Skills.” Scholastic Parents. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://www.scholastic.com/parents/family-life/social-emotional-learning/social-skills-for-kids/12-ways-to-develop-your-childs-organizational-skills.html.
 “Mastering Time Management and Organizational Skills to Increase Productivity.” Brian Tracy International. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://www.briantracy.com/blog/time-management/mastering-time-management-and-organizational-skills-to-increase-productivity/.
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 Morin, Amanda. “At a Glance: 7 Ways to Teach Your High-Schooler Organizational Skills.” Understood: For Learning and Attention Issues. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/teaching-organizational-skills/at-a-glance-7-ways-to-teach-your-high-schooler-organization-skills.
 Zegarra, Maria. “9 Techniques to Improve Your Study Habits.” Florida National University. December 18, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://www.fnu.edu/7-techniques-improve-study-habits/.
 Grohol, John M. “10 Highly Effective Study Habits.” PsychCentral. October 8, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://psychcentral.com/lib/top-10-most-effective-study-habits/.