The Only Thing You Need to Know to Ace Tests

Hey there, do you have trouble with tests? Do you study by rereading your notes or textbook? Even if you don’t, it’s very likely that you use the same method every time you study right?

Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that the way you’ve been studying is most likely being wasted. The good news, I have the solution right here, and I’m going to share it with you.

Hey there, while I HIGHLY recommend watching this particular video in full, here is a summary:

The Study Cycle is composed of 3 steps and is the most effective, efficient, and anti-boring method I know for studying. So before we begin going over the steps, I have a little image here, which we will be referencing.

 

The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically | Gretchen Wegner | Teacher | Teachers | Tutors | Academic Life Coach | Academic Coach | Academic Coaching | Academic Coaches | Tutors | Tutor | Study Skills | School Administrators | Parents | Parent | Student | StudentsWe start with the basket of knowledge and skills at the bottom of the image, this is what we need to learn, and we need to get this into your beautiful brain at the top. So step 1 is encoding the information from the basket into our brains. In this step, we are getting the information into our brains, whether we are teaching it to ourselves or it’s being taught to us.

Step 2 of The Study Cycle, which the majority of students skip, is practice retrieval. This is the process of getting the information out of our brains and assessing what we actually learned. By doing this, we get two very important pieces of information. The first is what we do know, what we actually did learn in step 1. The second is what we didn’t encode in step 1. What we didn’t learn, or encode, we put back into the basket of knowledge.

Then we have step 3. Step 3 is one of the least practiced steps, but just as important or more important than the other 2. Step 3 is to encode the information we assessed we didn’t learn in step 2 in a NEW way. The important thing is NOT just to try to re-encode it the same way you did in Step 1, but to encode the information in a new way.

My course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, for students, and The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically, for Educators, both are filled with a wide variety of tools to help students encode information in new ways. So check them out, and I look forward to hearing from you.

 

College Prep Podcast #158: 5 Secrets to Taking Multiple Choice Tests Well

Megan Dorsey, College Prep Podcast, 5 Secrets to Taking Multiple Choice Tests Well, test taking, adviceToo many students struggle with multiple choice tests.

Often, this difficulty is not that they don’t know the material but rather because they haven’t learned how to take those tests well.

Listen in as Megan provides her top five tips so you stop losing points on tests. Specifically, she discusses habits for how to:

  • pay attention to the design of the test
  • make sure you’re reading the details in both questions and answers
  • change your focus from finding the right answer to eliminating the wrong answer
  • troubleshoot when you can’t actually write on the exam
  • compare choices once you’ve narrowed them down,
  • “work backward” to choose the correct answer, and
  • discern what test-taking advice is ineffective and should be ignored

Listen in to Megan and Gretchen as they discuss how to Rock College and be a successful college student!

College Prep Podcast #141: 5 Fears Students Have That Need to Be Acknowledged

Gretchen Wegner | Megan Dorsey | The College Prep Podcast | Fears | Students | Student | Success | Acknowledged | Homework | Tests | Teachers | Teacher |

Sometimes adults forget that being a student is an emotionally taxing job, that students have fears, and that students often need reassurance!

On today’s New Year’s episode we discuss the five ways that feelings get in the way of student success if they’re not acknowledged.

Each of today’s tips is inspired by a video from Gretchen’s YouTube channel. Tune in to get the low-down on each of these tips, or go directly to the videos that inspired them in the first place:

Click here to head over to the College Prep Podcast to listen to this episode.

College Prep Podcast #134: Easy Tips for Prepping for Finals Over the Holidays

Gretchen Wegner | Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Studying Tips | College | Finals | Holidays | Notes | Testing | Study Tools

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Thanksgiving is coming up soon, as are the winter holidays.

If you get started studying for finals now (or over the winter holidays, if your finals aren’t until the end of January), you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches later — plus, you’ll learn the information better! Today Gretchen shares:

  • How to put in more effort to studying without feeling like you’re working too hard
  • The importance of testing yourself using “spaced retrieval”, and a few simple ways to do this over the holidays
  • How to get yourself organized so you don’t waste time later finding important study tools
  • A crucial tip for how to use your notes so that you’re actually learning (rather than just faking it)
  • and more!

For more strategies about getting prepped for finals, check out Gretchen Wegner’s Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

Tune into the podcast by clicking here.

How to Read a 400 Page Book in under Two Hours, Part 1/4

What if I told you it was possible to read a 400-page book in under two hours?

You wouldn’t believe me, right?

This summer I had a stack of books I wanted to catch up on, but I only had limited time. So I challenged myself to skim each of the books as quickly as possible.

In this week’s video, I walk you through the first step in how to read efficiently and effectively. You don’t have to read every word in order to walk away with the main idea, after all! Enjoy.


Stay tuned for Part 2 in this four-part series next week.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

Memorizing Definitions: A Client Success Story!

Memorizing definitions accurately can be a real challenge for students. Not to mention booooring!

Here’s an “anti-boring approach” success story from a client who used what I call my “formula technique” to learn and memorize some complex definitions in a higher level class.  When I checked in with him at the end of the school year, he credited this technique for transforming his ability to be prepared for tests.

Check it out and let me know if it would work for you, too!

 

Would you like to learn more great tips like this? My online course The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying is filled with 30+ tools for rocking school.

 

Learning from Taking Tests

Doing poorly on a test is not a failure: it’s a powerful learning opportunity!

Students can learn so much by taking a close look at what they did well on tests — and where they went wrong. I love Cal Newport’s three pieces of advice for how to do a “post-mortem” on a test:

“What did I do right? What note-taking and study strategies served you well on the exam? What was a waste of time? Which strategies took up time but did not help? What did I miss? Where were you caught off guard? What type of question were you not prepared for? What type of material did you miss in your review?”

This is one reason why it drives me CRAZY that so many teachers do not allow students to keep their exams! I find this is the case most often with public school teachers, who have so many students coming through their classrooms AND so much concern about eliminating the opportunity to cheat. I do feel sorry about the administrative hassle that test-taking causes. However, so many of my clients consistently do poorly on tests even though they do well on all the assignments leading up to the test. And we have no way of reviewing the tests to see what is wrong. I have to admit that when I was a teacher, I often kept kids’ tests, too, because I was concerned about them losing them … and then not being able to use them for the final exam. However, this micromanaging of kids’ organization process doesn’t help them in the least.

I strongly believe that a student’s answers are their intellectual property, and therefore belong to them.

What do you learn and take away from your tests? Leave a comment and let me know!

P.S. Was this useful? For more great ideas and helpful hints, sign up for free email updates by clicking this link: http://eepurl.com/i10p

Warning: Is Your Tutor Teaching Bad Study Habits?

OK, that title might be a bit of an exaggeration. I don’t really believe that tutors do more harm than good — but I DO believe that there are some bad habits students fall victim to where tutors are concerned. Now that the school year has started, students and tutors are starting their work together; it’s a good opportunity to nip bad habits in the bud.

First, I need to explain that as an academic coach, I do not consider myself a tutor. Tutors are subject-specific content specialists; academic coaches are process specialists. Tutors help explain the pythagorean theorem to a student who doesn’t understand; an academic coach helps the student identify processes in which they can better learn the pythagorean theorem (e.g. use the textbook more effectively, take better notes in class, do sample problems, etc).

Many of my academic coaching clients also see Spanish or math tutors because they need help with both process and content. Too often, though, I encounter a conversation that sounds like this:

Me: So, it looks like you have a big trigonometry test coming up on Friday. What’s your study plan?

Student: Oh, I’ll just study with my tutor. I see her the day before the test.

Me: But what about making a study guide? And reviewing it at least two days before the test?

Student: Yeah, but I don’t need to do that with math. When I study with my tutor, I usually do just fine.

Just the other day, in fact, my client Annabelle (a high school senior) repeated a similar refrain,  “Oh, I don’t need to study for the Spanish test by myself; I’ll just do it with my tutor.”

In the short term, this student’s relationship with the tutor is doing all sorts of good: Annabelle trusts her tutor and is making B’s on all her tests.  I can *assume* this means she’s also learning to speak Spanish, although I can’t say that for sure.

However, when Annabelle relies on her tutor to guide her study process, she is neither holding herself accountable for her learning nor is she practicing how to be a self-sufficient learner. If the tutor guides the whole study process, Annabelle isn’t practicing how to: a) compile all the necessary information, b) make a study guide that works for her, c) save time to review her study guide, and d)  self-assess when she has learned the information well.

All four of these skills are critical for college readiness. The last one — knowing how to self-assess at what point she has learned the information sufficiently — is critical long after she’s done taking tests; it is crucial for helping her be a life long learner.

Tutors provide a wonderful service to many students; however, without sufficient attention to the study processes they are advocating, they can foster dependent students who can’t learn unless experts walking them through every step of the way.

If you are a parent hiring a tutor, I highly recommend that you ask them, not just about their content expertise, but also about what strategies they’ve developed for teaching learning/study processes to their students. Some questions to ask might include:

1. What’s your philosophy about how students learn best?

2. What content do you tutor? What skills do you teach alongside that content?

3. What are your responsibilities when tutoring my child? What are my child’s responsibilities when working with you? How do engage my child in dialogue about these responsibilities?

4. What specific strategies do you teach to help students become self-sufficient learners?

5. Sometimes students can become too reliant on tutors, and they begin abdicating responsibility for their own learning. How do you know when this is happening, and what do you do to minimize this tendency?

Do you have any additional questions you like to ask tutors? Are you a tutor with some reflections about how you foster self-sufficiency in your clients? Are you a student with stories? Please comment! I’d love to hear…

P.S. Want more great tips like this?  Sign up for FREE email updates.

What Makes Homework Different Than Studying

Many of my academic coaching clients have a devil of a time studying for tests.  The reasons are varied, but one major stumbling block I’ve uncovered is this: students do not understand the purpose that homework plays in preparing them for tests! Our current education system rewards students for mindlessly following teacher’s instructions, rather than thinking about the purpose behind the instructions. I’ve repeatedly discovered that it’s my role as an academic coach to help students uncover the connections between homework and what’s on the test.

Let’s look at two clients in particular, who are learning to understand the distinction between studying versus doing homework, and how both tasks are a crucial part of test preparation.

Michaela and Grant are both 9th graders who are consistently scoring Cs and Ds on their history tests. The other day I asked Michaela to show me her homework assignments, and sure enough: it appeared to me that she had copied the definitions from the textbook into her homework assignment.

Technically speaking, Michaela is answering her homework questions correctly; however, when she copies the definitions, she’s not actually internalizing the information she’s supposedly “learning.” When I asked her if she even pays attention to the meaning of what she’s writing, she confirmed, “No, I don’t. I just scan for the answers and write them down. That’s what I’m supposed to do, isn’t it?”

It hadn’t occurred to Michaela that the purpose of homework is to be introduced to new information, and then to practice that information with the purpose of learning it. If she mindlessly reads and answers questions, she *might* get a 100% on her homework assignment — but she’s making studying for the test extra hard.

We then discussed the difference between doing homework (when the teacher structures the learning activity, and you make sure you’ve learned it) and studying (when you structure your own learning activity to make sure that you’re understanding the information).

Michaela was shocked, and a little disheartened, to learn that test prep begins waaaaaaay back when she first does a homework assignment. It’s important for her to:

a) think actively when completing the teacher-assigned activity, so that she is aware of of what she is learning as she learns it (this is homework), and then

b) take some time to determine her strengths and weaknesses, and then (using multiple modalities) drill the weak areas and reinforce the strengths (this is studying).

If she does her homework with conscious attention to what she’s learning, and then several times a  chooses to study what she’s learned, she will be much better prepared for the eventual test.

Another client named Grant was working on a history worksheet during our coaching session. At one point, the worksheet asked Grant to make a list of the five beliefs shared by the enlightenment philosophers. Just as Michaela had done, Grant copied the beliefs directly from the textbook. When I asked him, “Do you even understand what you are writing? Would you be able to remember what these mean for the test?” he answered honestly,  “Probably not.”

Together we practiced going back, rereading the textbook, looking up confusing words, summarizing the information, and only THEN writing it down into his homework. Although this kind of mindful attention is more time-consuming, it saves time in the long run because Grant will not need to re-learn the information the night before the test.

I know it will probably take Michaela and Grant a couple of years before they fully “get” the distinction between studying and doing homework and how both impact their time efficiency and performance on tests. Both students have learning disabilities which make them slower processors, which makes the entire learning process — as well as thinking about their own thinking — a bit harder for them. Many students don’t fully integrate these processes until college!

In the meantime, Michaela and Grant will practice, practice practice. I’ve been an academic coach for long enough, I know that by the end of their sophomore year, they will (most likely) turn the corner and be more interested in improving their learning processes. One step at a time…

If you’d like a free fifteen minute consultation about your student and whether he or she could benefit from academic coaching, please contact me. I’d be happy to talk in more detail.

Photo by icanhascheezburger.com.