27 August 2009 02:04 PM

Taking Tests in High School

by Dr. Rick

This week we’re discussing studying for and taking tests in school.  Earlier in the week we talked about middle school students.  Today, let’s concentrate on high school students.

  1. Be serious.  Determine to make improved test preparation a major goal for this school year.  Take control of your school life now.  If you’ve not established good habits by now, what are you waiting for?  Make it a point of honor – and maturity – that now’s the time to do it.  Especially if you’re planning on going on to post-secondary education or training.  Tell your parents and best friends of your determination.  Ask for their support.  Partner with a friend, so it’ll be easier.

  2. Know your study style.  Everyone learns differently, so know what works best for you.  Early mornings?  Evenings?  Silent reading?  Studying with someone else?  Find a way to accommodate your learning style.

  3. Review often.  All week long, whether you have homework or not, go over your notes from class.  (See my blog of 20 August 2009 on taking good class notes.)  Keep them updated, easy to read, well-organized.  Information stays with you longer if it’s part of your daily life and not just an isolated experience.

  4. Don’t cram or multitask.  Cramming a lot of information into your poor brain the night before a test only addles you.  You’ll run the risk of confusing facts, dates, names, and events.  Instead, learn a little bit at a time.  And don’t even get me started on multitasking!  You may think you’re able to multitask while you’re studying for a test, but you’re sadly mistaken.  (See my blog of 25 November 2008.)

  5. Organize.  You’re in high school, for heaven’s sake.  No more excuses for poorly-kept notebooks and backpacks that look like rodents’ nests.  Grow up.  There are lots of books and information about how to organize yourself – there’s much in my blogs, as a matter of fact.  (See the Archive section above).  Read them or figure out on your own a way to keep yourself in control of your schoolwork.  Just do it.  Have everything you need at your fingertips, study the most important information first, then work your way to lesser material.

  6. Have your own study space and routines.  Routines are important for success and for keeping yourself on track.  Have a space at home where it’s comfortable and organized, with all of your materials nearby.  Have a time when you’re at your best to do your studying.  (It’s not good to study beyond your regular bedtime.  Your body will want to sleep, not retain information.)  Keep to your schedule.  Ask your parents to help you.

  7. Use your notes.  Have your class notes with you when you’re studying from text books or from electronic sources.  It’s useful to see that all of your sources and materials are concurrent.  If you note discrepancies, ask your teacher for plausible explanations.  This keeps you alert and knowledgeable.

  8. Take breaks.  Short, periodic ones.  This not only keeps you alert, but it makes good brain-sense.  We remember best what we first learn and what we last learn.  Breaking up your study times gives you lots of opportunities for first and last learnings.

  9. Get help.  When you need help, ask for it.  One of the signs of maturity is recognizing our strengths and weaknesses.  If you’re having trouble, ask for help from a teacher, a tutor, a smart friend, or a study group.  Quiz yourself periodically and regularly.

  10. Have confidence.  Talk positively to yourself about all of the work you’ve done to prepare for tests.  Remind yourself of your improving habits and attitudes.  Take some pride in your accomplishments and new-found determination.  Improvements will build upon themselves.  And when you fall down, pick yourself up and learn from the experience.  I find it helpful to write (in a journal, perhaps) about difficult times.  Writing helps us to keep an experience in our minds, to concentrate on it, to think more deeply about it.

The “take-home message” here is that studying for and taking tests successfully are skills that come over time, that require a determined effort, that need us to work diligently, and that sometimes ask us to step up to areas that stretch our abilities.  But they also reward us with skills, knowledge, and confidence that will serve us well in school and beyond.


All you have to do is choose to improve, and then act on that choice, without distractions (see my blog of 17 August 2009) or “friends” who want to drag you down.  It’s your life, my young friends.  Take control of it.


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