Exams tests can be stressful! You are expected to read your material, understand it and answer the questions asked about it. It means hours of reading and understanding the material, a task best taken up as soon as the lesson is done. A lot of children, though (me in my childhood) will wait for a day or two before the exam before studying. This stuffing of large amounts of information at top speeds into the brain is known as cramming or mugging. It is terrible for the brain! There are some time-tested and simple methods you can use to ace your test. These test-taking tips are guaranteed to improve your scores. Promise.
1.Take the medicine in small doses
If you try to learn everything in one go, you will be overwhelmed. Set aside an hour every day after school to read a lesson at your own pace. Think of it as an excellent habit to be followed everyday, like brushing your teeth. No teacher racing to finish the class and no friend cracking a joke or distracting you. Take one subject per day and read through it. Try solving the questions at the end of the lesson. These questions are like a test and are most likely to be asked, ergo a good idea to spend time answering them. The next day, pick up another subject. Through the week you will be done with a little bit per subject. With each passing day, you will gain more confidence.
2.Learn more about the lesson
Suppose you are learning about the Greek Civilisation in school. Don’t stop at the lesson. Go online or to the local library and learn more about the Greek Civilisation. There are many wonderful websites that will give you the information in an interactive and sometimes informal manner. Duckster.com, Wikipedia, Brittanica.com are some great online resources. Ted Ed is also a great place to have another perspective. The Horrible Science/History/Geography series are informative and funny to read.
Have fun researching and learning. Take a look at this Ted-Ed lesson on Genghis Khan.
Learning is great fun!
3.Layer it up!
Notice how you get better and better at things you practice. Remember when you first learned to skate, use the wave board or learn the bicycle? It didn’t happen in one go. You had to try it in different ways and then one day, you were sailing. Similarly, if you read and reread the material, it will stay with you longer and it becomes easier to remember. Your familiarity with the lesson will show through when you answer your test, especially in essay type answers.
Google defines mnemonic as a system such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations which assist in remembering something. This helps in remembering a bunch of associated places, names or things. If you wanted to remember the colours of a rainbow you will use VIBGYOR, where each letter stands for a colour and the order of the letters is the order of the colours as well. This is a name mnemonic. You can use music mnemonic – the alphabet song is a mnemonic that children use to remember the alphabet. Note cards and models are some of the other forms of mnemonics.
There are several sites you can use online notecards or flash cards to learn. You can use a used notebook with clean sheets to make flashcards. Write down the question on one side and the answer on the opposite side. Play and learn as you would Pokemon cards or football cards.
The life cycle of a fern is a model mnemonic to understand the different stages of growth in the life of the fern.
Mind maps are great tools to remember the central idea and all its associated branches. They help break down complex ideas into digestible portions. Take a look at this tennis mind map.
The mindmap has broken down the ATP finals. The tournaments, surfaces, scores, type of shots and principles of the matches have been laid out. If the same material was in a paragraph, it might be quite heavy. Broken into a mind map it helps all kinds of learners, including visual learners.
6.Talk to your teachers
Very often, students and teachers interact post-test. The teacher points out areas of concern and gaps. A math teacher, for instance, may expect all steps to be explained, rather than just the answer. Talking to your teachers before the exam will give you a clearer idea of their expectations of student performance. This is particularly helpful when answering essay style questions, comprehension passages or analysis based answers. Keep in mind their pointers from the previous test and jot down advice for forthcoming tests. These discussions will also help you achieve clarity and provide focus while you study.
It always helps to take mock tests before the real deal. Schools often provide students mock test papers or worksheets. Do them diligently. If you are using a textbook, be sure to show your teachers your answers. They will have valuable feedback to provide you. You can also show it to your parents or a student mentor. They will help improve your answers because they have gone through the drill.
8.Avoid distractions at study time
Keep your study time sacrosanct. Use this time to concentrate on your study material. Try not to listen to music or be on Social media. You have time after study to do this. In fact, use it as a carrot for yourself. Promise yourself an hour of music or chatting with friends if you get a concept done.
9.Read instructions carefully
A key and important element of testing is to carefully read and follow testing instructions before you start. Make sure you understand them well and clarify if you don’t. This will also help you plan the order in which you will answer and how much time you can allocate to each.
If you want a toned, fit body it is not going to happen overnight. A little effort every day (exercise, good nutrition, avoiding junk foods) will help you get there. The small differences every day will add up to big benefits. (You will be fitter, have more stamina, receive more compliments etc.). Similarly, keeping aside short units of time diligently to study, find ways to connect with the material and exercising the brain muscle will get you charging towards the exam finish line, with a lot of energy to spare.
All the very best.