It happens year after year, quarter after quarter, week after week. Students prepare for tests and quizzes by spending a day or two or maybe even the week beforehand glossing over notes and study guides. Then when grades come back, they wonder why all of their efforts garnered them a “C.” The reason: they don’t know how to effectively study.
It can be very difficult to instill study skills in teenagers who generally are immune to their parents’ advice. At any rate, here are a few suggestions for how you can help your teen better study for final tests and get ready for the end of the school year.
1. Instead of asking “Have you studied?” ask “Have you studied what you don’t know?”
A typical teenager’s idea of studying is “reading” over notes and study guides. Though, more often than not, this “studying” becomes more of a repetitive eye exercise than active reading and retention. By asking them something novel that cuts out a chunk of work (studying what they already know), they may be more receptive to your suggestion. If not, at least you can plant the seed. Encourage them to go through their study guide, check off what they do know, and circle what they do not know. Then, they can either create practice tests or flashcards on only the material they do not know.
2. Suggest a study group.
Studying with other students and working on assignments together can be very helpful. Students can clarify points they may not understand and help others by explaining the parts they find hard. Teaching others may even help them gain a better understanding of the information as well. Further, working with peers gives many students a boost in motivation.
3. Use technology! There are a lot of great study sites and apps.
Being exposed to information in new ways can help students better understand and learn. Channels on YouTube such as Crash Course! offer visually stimulating, humorous videos that explain in ten minute segments everything from The Cold War to Stoichiometry. Website such as Quizlet and Examtime allow students to create various study aids such as flashcards and mind maps. Apps like iProcrastinate serve as simple task managers to keep students’ study plans on track.
4. Study right before sleep.
It’s not news that sleep is tied to learning. Even a nap can significantly boost brain power during the day. To cement new knowledge in the brain, recent sleep research proves that the first 3-4 hours of deep sleep shortly following studying have a significant impact on one’s ability to retain information. The lead author of the study, Jessica Payne, Ph.D., says it is “a good thing to rehearse any information you need to remember just prior to going to bed. In some sense, you may be ‘telling’ the sleeping brain what to consolidate.” This news is exciting to teens who will heed anything they perceive to be an academic “shortcut.”