Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Test Prep

EDITED:  See additional notes at the bottom of the post

In all classes we have a BA Test on the last class day this week.  On these days I will also be checking notebooks.  These will be graded on completeness, organization, and use-ability. 

My biggest concern right now is preparing for this test.  There is always a lot pressure tied to BA tests as the BA test category is weighted as 50% of the overall grade.  Students cannot, generally, afford to do poorly on them.  However, coming in and hoping to do the "best job evah!" is rarely a good strategy and that kind of pressure can yield poor results.

So here are some tips to consider as you work with your student to prepare for this test:

1)  Have a relatively distraction-free place for some of the work.

Yes, many students do better working with some kind of distraction in the background.  I know I have a very hard time staying focused in a silent room, myself.  However some time should be spent working without music, without Facebook, and without the TV going.  The test room will be nearly silent during the test time; the study space should be the same as well.

Research has shown that the closer the preparation space is to the test environment, the better students do.  This should, however, be tempered with the realities.  If demanding the house be quiet leads to a sullen and unproductive teen, then perhaps a little music is worth the compromise to get the book cracked open.

2)  Review classnotes and previous quizes.

Every problem on the BA has been previewed as of my lessons, in the homework assignments or on the quiz.  I make it a goal to have no student walk out of a test saying they were "surprised" by the content.  For this reason I strongly encourage students to invest the time to review their work, redo problems and check over our discussions.

3)  Look up the answers in the book.

Most of the review material has problems with solutions in the back of the text.  For every practice problem they do, they can also check to see if they got it right.  Often by working the problem backwards they can find the point where they made a mistake in their work.

4)  Commit to better habits.

As we prepare for the exam, students will see things they can do better next chapter.  Perhaps it is a matter of taking better class notes, or a matter of asking for a new seat in the room.  Students may consider making regular study groups, or plan a common day afterschool to get assistance.  Challenge your student to commit to one improvement over the next chapter. 

Students who bring this commitment to improvement, in writing, on the day of the test will receive some Brownie Points (which are good for homework extensions as needed) as a reward.  Those daring may also publically post their commitment in the comments below.


I'd like to clarify the commitment.  What I am looking for from students is a plan to a single specific action to help improvement over the next chapter.  This can include, for example, raising your hand at least once a class period, making sure that every problem is tried for a minimum of 5 minutes, or meeting once a week with me or another tutor to review work.  The commitment should be specific, do-able, and likely to help your grade.

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