Students need to practise the way they are tested

This is such a simple concept – ‘students need to practise the way they are tested’ yet in my experience it’s something that many students actually struggle with.

I regularly see and speak to students who don’t revise and study on a regular basis and often only do it prior to an upcoming test or exam.   The other issue I see is that when students do actually revise and study they are often not using the best methods.   Both of these are entwined and students need to practise the way they are to be tested.  It is vital that they learn how to do this in order to give tests and exams their best shot and in turn get the best marks they possibily can.

As I say to my students in my workshops or when working 1:1 with them that it is about ‘studying smarter not harder”!  You can often hear a bit of a sigh of relief when they think about what I am actually saying.quote learning to study smarter not harder

Regular Revision

Most students actually understand the importance of revision however seem to struggle to know how to know what steps to take and how often they should take them.  Research shows that students definitely benefit from revising on a more regular basis rather than only doing it only when preparing for upcoming tests or exams.  

Many students will also work hard at revising, however they don’t always work well at it.   As with any other aspect of their studies, they need to organise their time, plan their revision well in advance and know what strategies work best for them.

It is important that students do many regular reviews of their information and notes as this is more effective and likely to be retained in their memory over an extended period of time rather than doing just a few long cram sessions.   Ideally students should be reviewing their information and notes on the day they have written them to ensure they have understood the topic at the time and seek further assistance at that stage if they don’t.  It is much better for memory to do it at the time than weeks or months down the track.  From there they should then find a regular pattern of reviewing their notes and testing themselves.

Revision doesn’t have to be hard

Revision doesn’t have to be too hard and students need to put the effort into planning.  It is important to know the best way to revise for all their subjects and have a plan in place for each one.  If students are not sure about this they should seek assistance and guidance from their teachers who are more than willing to assist.  Sometimes this in itself can be hard step for students to do.

Unfortunately many students today are still of the belief that reading over notes or highlighting key text are good revision strategies.   However both of these are actually not the most effective as they don’t force students to think deeply or critically about the topics and they end up being done without much thought at all.  Reading and highlighting creates a sense of familiarity to students however in an exam situation they don’t get marks for things being familiar, they get marks for recalling relevant information and using it to answer the question.

Having said that students shouldn’t abandon these strategies completely as they still can have a role to play and be used alongside other effective revision methods and techniques.

Testing yourself and its importance

There is a lot of research on memory where they say that testing yourself is one of the most effective ways to improve your ability to recall information.  By testing themselves students also can easily identify any gaps in their knowledge.  Practise papers provide a good starting point, as well as quizzing themselves at the end of a revision session.  Another useful technique is to teach the material to someone else.  They could do this with a study partner and take turns and/or to someone who knows nothing about the topic.  This technique assists students to really think about the subject in a clear and structured way.   Another method could be for students to put all the information they know in a mind map or on paper before reviewing their notes to see where the gaps in their knowledge are.

image of a multiple choice exam paper

This then leads us to the next stage of revision where it is important for students to focus on the information that they don’t know rather than what they do know.  Naturally it is more satisfying to revise what they do know rather than focus on their weaknesses.  Revision isn’t about reassuring oneself on what they do know it needs to be all about identifying what they don’t.  Once they figure this out then they need to find the best revision strategies to learn that knowledge.

On top of this students need to really understand the format of the tests and exams so they can actually practise under test or exam like conditions.  By doing this they can work out the best strategies for them when it comes to reading time, working out which questions to tackle first and so on.  It is important that during the reading time they actually read and understand the questions before they begin and really know what is being asked of them.  For some students they like to focus on the hardest or most time consuming working down to the easiest where as for other students they like to get the easy marks out of the way first and do the harder ones later.  There is no right strategy and is very much up to individual students to find what suits their style the best.  Practise tests or exams are a great opportunity for students to really know what works best for them and to fine tune these prior to the important test or exam.

Most teachers are also more than happy to mark practise tests and exams which then also allows the students to work on the areas that they don’t know as well to keep learning and improving before the final exams arrive.

There is research that finds students who do practise tests after a period of revision do better on the final exam than those students who didn’t do the practise exams and had just spent the whole time revising.  At the end of the day its better for students who don’t do well in practise exams to have the time to do more work, change revision strategies and develop the right skills to perform well under pressure than it all falling apart and not working for them in the final exam!

If you’d like to know more or hear how I can assist you or your child further please get in touch.