May is test month at ECS, as each grade takes their annual standardized achievement tests. With that in mind, we thought it would be a good time to talk about how to prepare for a test. The jury is still out among scientists on exactly how and why we forget certain pieces of information. However, it seems that, aside from injury or illness, the brain doesn’t necessarily “lose” information. Rather, it is a matter of it being stored correctly and/or fully committing the information to memory in the first place. If we can change the way we approach information, then we can help our brain to fully recall information when it is time to put it to the test! I sat down with one of our study skill’s teachers, Mrs. Angela Gay, to get some insider information on prepping for this mental gymnastics. She gave me five ways to help your brain out!
- Start Studying Right Away
As soon as you know you have a test, start studying! Oftentimes, we start studying for a test the week before, or sometimes (gasp) the night before! This concept should be a no-brainer (no pun intended), but it’s something that can easily be looked over. The longer you have to review and ingest information, the better you will be able to recall it later on. If you struggle with procrastination, making this a priority will help immensely.
- Write it Down
Nothing helps a student more on a test, then simply paying attention in class. To help aid in this, take notes! Here are a few tips from expert note-takers. First off, don’t write everything down. Just write down the important stuff – facts, dates, etc.… If you want to get even more specific, simply write down the facts that the teacher puts on the board. (This could even be a clue of what they may test you on later!) Also, try color-coding your notes to highlight certain concepts. Once, middle school hits, it is important to have a notebook for each class/subject. That way, you do not have to sift through a bunch of notes later. Lastly, we can usually read our own handwriting, but if you do not write legibly, your notes won’t be helpful!
- Practice “Chunking”
“Chunking” is simply breaking large topics into chunks. For example, if you were studying U.S. History on World War II, you could organize information by specific events. Instead of attempting to study all of the United States’ involvement with World War II in one sitting, take a single topic (like the attack on Pear Harbor) and memorize all the information surrounding that one event. Go a step further and assign a different day of the week for studying each section of information. Then you can use the last day to review everything. Studies show that when information has been contemplated, not simply memorized in a rote fashion, it is better absorbed. So, as you study these chunks of information, truly take time to think about how they connect to one another.
- Take Breaks
Your brain needs a break! About every 45 minutes or so, get up and stretch. Go get a snack, chat with a friend, or get some fresh air. Actively giving your brain periods of rest, will help you to focus better and allow your noggin to correctly store information. Equally as important, is getting enough sleep. Studying is wonderful, but if you are studying late into the night, the benefits of sleep may outweigh the benefits of continuing to study. Parents and students should stay aware of when its time to stop and simply get some shut eye. Your brain will thank you for it!
- Stay Organized
Stuffing loose papers into your backpack is a surefire way to misplace important information. Take the time to organize your papers after each period or at the end of the day. That way, when it comes time to study, you will not be rummaging around in a panic looking for a specific sheet of paper.
Well, that’s it! In addition to these, there are many different ways to make studying more fun. You can study in a group, make artsy-looking flashcards, create word plays, or make up songs. Whatever you choose, know that you can do it and studying doesn’t have to be boring!