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Helping kids cram for exams

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School is underway in most parts of the country and before long, kids will be studying for exams. It may not be the recommended way to study but cramming for exams is part of the learning experience. From elementary school to graduate school, cramming for finals means late nights spent in front of piles of books and notes, trying make sense of the material you’ve been learning all week or semester. The days and hours leading up to a big test can be nerve-wracking, especially if the student feels unsure of the material. In some cases, teachers like to surprise students with the news that a test is imminent, leaving them with scant hours to prepare.

When time is short and the test date is drawing near, there may have no other recourse except to dedicate a few nights or even just few hours to cramming for the exam. There are some things parents can do to make your child’s limited study time more beneficial.

Often there will be test preparation material given out. If not, use the objectives of the chapter found either in your child’s textbook or in the class syllabus. Review these for the material being covered on the test. Focus on main points, key concepts and vocabulary words. Skim the reading material looking for important ideas and concepts. If time is limited, focus on the broader picture rather than trying to memorize specific facts.

Another technique is to study is by using the five topics method. Set out five sheets of paper and label each with one of the five most important topics from the subject material. Have your student write a brief summary of each topic, in their own words. This exercise should highlight areas where they are weak and where they are strong. Concentrate on the topics where the summary is lacking first. Compare what is written to your class notes, handouts and any other materials at your disposal. Have your child make corrections and additions to original summary; rewrite it in a more finished format. This reinforces the more pertinent information in their minds.

If the test covers a broader range of topics, you can add additional sheets. It is a good idea to limit the number to no more than ten. Organize the sheets from most important to least important. Read them over as often as you can in the hours or days preceding the test. By limiting the number of topics, you allow yourself to focus on the most important aspects and the details surrounding them. This type of organization helps prevent a chaotic and panicked approach that would certainly spell failure.

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