How to Ace Final Exams – Tips for Parents and Kids

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Is it really already time to start preparing for finals? Final exams can make or break a student’s semester, and many kids feel the pressure, especially when test-taking anxiety sets in. Expert tutor and co-founder of interactive tutoring website Virtual Nerd Leo Shmuylovich offers 5 helpful suggestions for how students can prepare – and parents can offer support – during finals season.

5 suggestions for finals season:

  1. Be Efficient! When studying for finals the key is to use homework and study time as efficiently as possible. The more focused you can be the less likely you are to become overwhelmed by everything that you need to remember and work on. So one thing that I always tried to get students to do is get copies of the exams, graded homework, and quizzes that they have taken. All of those resources give you a window into what topics kids have struggled with during the year, and so your study time should be focused on drilling down on those topics and building up skills and confidence in those weaker areas. Also, this gives you a chance to see what kids have excelled in so far, and you can spend some time on those topics as well, to give kids something that they know they will succeed in.
  2. Time Management: Set up a schedule for getting ready for the test, and don’t let your kids stay up all night cramming. The best way to have a test full of careless errors is to get no sleep the night before, so make sure that whatever work and practice is planned gets done before 2 am the morning of the test!
  3. Review Packets: If your teacher hands out a review packet, know it backwards and forwards, but don’t be surprised if something on the test goes a bit beyond that packet. One approach is to find problems in your book similar to the problems in the review packet, and make sure that you can solve those problems without too much struggle. If all you do is memorize the solution steps to the packet problems you may find yourself in trouble, but if you dig deep and really dissect the review packet problems, then you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to test time!
  4. Reduce test-taking Anxiety: If a student gets good grades on homework, but does poorly on tests, it may be anxiety related. Try simulating the “high-stakes” test-taking environment by setting aside a portion of each day where the student has to solve problems without the help of a textbook or reference tool, in a defined period of time.
  5. Practice, practice, practice: The old adage is true – practice makes perfect. Seek out additional practice within the textbook, or ask the teacher if there are extra worksheets or additional practice materials. Sometimes it really is just a matter of repetition, and the more times you solve a problem, the better off you’ll be remembering it come test time.

ABOUT LEO

Leo Shmuylovich just completed his Ph.D in Physics from Washington University in St. Louis. He is currently on a year leave from medical school to help launch the company he co-founded, Virtual Nerd (www.virtualnerd.com). He has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University, having graduated Magna Cum Laude in three years—and he was named a Merrill Presidential Scholar, one of the university’s highest honors. As a tutor and lecturer for The Princeton Review, he taught MCAT Physics and Biology classes, as well as SAT Math classes, to hundreds of students. He’s also worked individually with students on SAT, SAT II, AP exams, and science and math courses at both the high school and college level.

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