Midterm Exam Time - Steps to Prepare & Reduce Student Anxiety

Posted:  Friday, January 13, 2017 - 5:00am
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This is the time of year when many high school students become stressed and nervous about exams.  To help ease anxiety, and to help with preparation, here are a few suggestions from The Study Hall that will help make test day more manageable.

Teacher Reviews-

Most teachers will hand out a review sheet or give a comprehensive review about what students should expect to see on the exam, what they should know, and the format of the exam (essay, multiple choice, short answer, etc.).  During this last week of school, while teachers are reviewing, students should take detailed notes to assist them in studying and collect review sheets.

If their teacher does not do a review or hand out any review sheets, then the student should take the time to talk with him or her to find out what will be on the test, the format of the test, and areas of emphasis (which parts will be worth more points).

Organize Notebooks-

Exams do not happen in isolation.  Students have been learning material along the way, so they should have a notebook filled with notes, worksheets, old quizzes, old exams, and assignments.  If the student has not organized this along the way, now is the time to do so.

Many teachers share with their students how notebooks should be organized, so students should follow the guidelines that their teacher suggest.  If their teacher does not do this, then students should take it upon themselves to organize their notebooks with classroom notes in one section, including any worksheets that contain additional information, quizzes and exams in another section, and assignments in the last section. All of this should be in chronological order.

Make A Plan of Attack-

Once the students’ notebooks are organized and they have a good idea what will be on the test, as well as the format, now is the time to create a plan of attack.  Many times exams, even though they are supposed to be over the entire semester, concentrate heavily on the last few weeks of class.  This means, that while it is important to review notes, quizzes, and exams from the first quarter, they should take more time going over the more recent material.  The review from the teacher should help the student to determine if this is the case or if they truly need to review both quarters equally.

Many teachers require essays, and they often give the essay questions or prompts ahead of time for the students to think about.  Students MUST USE this time to create an outline and know exactly what they want to say.  By creating an outline, and even a draft if there is time, students' will commit to memory what they will write about on test day.  This will save time during the exam and take pressure off the student to come up with the information on the spot.  Many students do not prepare for essays, even when given the prompts or questions, which often leads to lower grades and more stress.

Old tests and quizzes are very important when reviewing.  Many teachers take exact questions from their old quizzes and tests and put them on the semester exam.  Knowing the information from these will only help on exam day.

Know the Format of Exam-

One important part of reviewing, that most students don’t even think about, is knowing the format of the exam.  Knowing whether it is an essay exam, multiple choice exam, short answer, or a mixture is important.

If it is an essay only exam, each paragraph written means a lot.  Students should be sure to use all elements of an essay (thesis, topic sentences, examples, analysis, transitional elements, and conclusion) when they write.  If the teacher gave the prompts or questions beforehand, students should prepare detailed outlines, and possibly a draft, so that when they go in to write the essays, it is fresh on their minds.  If the teacher did not give them the prompts or questions before, the student should create a mini-outline before attempting to write. A mini-outline or  bullets ideas will help to keep the student on track and focused.  Most students loose points because they don’t answer the question, go off topic, or don’t back their ideas up with examples or details.

If the exam is a multiple choice test, and all questions are graded equally, students should do the ones they know first, skip those they don’t, then go back and look over the ones they skipped if there is any time left.  If it is a multiple choice exam where some questions count more than others, students should do those first to ensure they will get the highest grade possible.  Spending all their time on the lower point questions, then rushing the higher point questions will only hurt their grade.  Students should use elimination when answering multiple choice questions.  If they know the answer, great, but if not, can they at least get it down to 50/50?  If so, they should guess.  If they leave any blank, then they have no chance at getting points on those questions and are guaranteed to lose points, so they should really guess on each one.

Short answer exams require the student to know little about a lot of things.  This is where details are very important.  Students must be sure to read each question thoroughly and answer what it asks.   Again, if there are questions worth higher points, the student should do those first if time is an issue.

Most exams will be a combination of types of questions.  Usually, they are set up with questions worth the least amount of points first, then move up to the ones worth the most points at the end.  This is to help ease the students into the exam, build their confidence, and help their prior knowledge come forth. If the student has experienced difficulty finishing tests on time in the past or tends to stress over exams, then he or she should do the questions worth the most first, then go back to do the others.   This way, they can relax a bit knowing the questions worth the most are completed.  If the student hasn’t ever had difficulty finishing exams on time, it is better to follow the set up of the exam.

Knowing what to expect on exam day and the format of the test ahead of time helps to take away the mystery of the exam, make it more concrete, and reduce anxiety and stress for the students.  The exams are meant to test whether the students know the information or skills shared over the semester, so the content should be familiar.  By taking steps to organize, prepare, and review, students will build their confidence, help to bring back prior knowledge, and increase the chances of getting the best grades they possibly can.

If your student has difficulty with reviewing, organizing, or preparing for the types of exams he or she will face, know that The Study Hall can help. Our qualified tutors are available to help with all of your students needs. Please contact us at 236-3949 or at Rockport@TheStudyHall.com for more information.