By: Rhiannon Cook
Spring is a time of many lovely things: Warmer weather, brighter days, blooming flowers, and the expectation of summer. It all makes it easier to feel happy, especially after a long, dreary winter. Just as it is a time to start feeling better, it is also a crucial season for students – its testing season. At Eisenhower, the middle level students are doing their best on the PSSAs, and the high school is preparing for all sorts of tests and exams across the classes and grades. It never hurts to be too prepared for a test, so The Squire interviewed EMHS librarian, Ms. Walter, who has taught a research and study skills class, to find out more about how to properly prepare for testing and how to get the most out of studying.
There are many methods to studying and review, and different ways work for different people. The Squire asked about a way of studying that works for most, and Walter suggested, “The best way to study is to review your notes daily and keep up with your homework. Reviewing your notes helps to move information from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.” She went on to explain, “Reviewing for a few minutes every day is much more efficient than cramming for hours the night before a test. Ideally, you should only need to study 30-45 minutes the night before a test if you are taking the time to go over notes you have taken in class. Also, flash cards are a great way to get a few minutes of review while on the go.”
There are many resources available to help students prepare to utilize these strategies. Walter recommended Cornell notes, Free Cornell Notes Template, GoodNotes, and Quizlet’s digital flashcards Learning tools, flashcards, and textbook solutions , Quizlet as places to get started on such methods of review. Walter suggested using technology to your advantage by “…creating shared notes documents on Office 365 with other classmates. Shared notes are a great idea because sometimes someone else catches something you did not. I have also found that having a partner to study with helps hold you accountable, is motivating and more fun.” These all sound like simple and efficient ways to start studying, and you can always build off of them to prepare yourself however you feel needed.
Now how about staying focused while studying? This is a trouble surely everyone has dealt with at some point or another. Since it is so common, The Squire thought it was important to ask our research and study expert about it. Walter responded, “The best time to study is right after school, typically between 4-6. If you wait until later, it has been proven that doing homework takes more time and is less efficient.” She went on to advise, “Always ‘Power Down’ your electronics while studying. It will help with focus and also time management.” Walter also said that playing music to concentrate is a perfectly reasonable strategy. All of these strategies are great tips to keep in mind and practice when needing to focus on studying.
Perhaps these are things that students have heard before when it comes to preparing for a test. So, The Squire questioned Walter about an underrated or lesser-known tip when it comes to review, and she explained it was important to be sure you are “Using the time in class to your advantage! Everyone has busy lives. Get as much done while you are in school so you can enjoy your down time out of school. Having activities and hobbies are important; use your school time wisely.” This sounds like an excellent trick that students could use a lot more. Surely everyone feels like there are times when you have nothing productive to do or even have too much time on your hands – why not study or practice? It really won’t hurt anything, and you’ll thank yourself when it comes to the exam.
There are plenty of other things to pay attention to when it comes to being ready for a test, not just studying. As well as being comfortable with the material, you need to be ready mentally and emotionally. When asked what to do to be prepared in other ways, Walter said, “It’s the same ol’ thing we have heard before – get enough sleep, eat a good balanced breakfast, be hydrated, and stay calm. A happy, well-rested, appropriately fed and hydrated brain functions better than a deprived one. Do yourself the favor of taking care of your brain and body to ease the stress of testing.” It all seems simple enough. Even if it’s just the night before the test, make sure you are well rested, or get a head start and just fix your sleep schedule a week or two in advance. And like Walter mentioned previously, don’t wait to rush a bunch of studying the night before; it won’t be of much help as sleep will.
The Squire is grateful for the guidance and tips from Ms. Walter, and all that she shared is sure to be of help to all those prepping for the testing season. The Squire also encourages students to do their best, and to keep in mind that the year is nearly over. The exams are just one last stepping stone before summer!