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10 Expert Test-Taking Hacks for High School Students

10 Expert Test-Taking Hacks for High School Students

Throughout their academic career, high school students take a lot of tests. Not counting final exams and in-class tests and quizzes, the average student in America’s public school system takes about 112 mandatory standardized tests between kindergarten and 12th grade. That’s a lot of study time, and a lot of stress.

While pre-test nerves and jitters are normal, some students experience more text anxiety than others. Effective study and test-taking strategies can help students feel more at ease, and also boost their performance. So whether you are preparing for finals, the SATs, or another standardized test, here are 10 test-taking hacks from academic experts.

1. Get to Class Early

Make sure you get to class early the day of your test. You don’t want to lose any precious test-taking time, but also, you don’t want to feel rushed or stressed. According to findings from scientists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson, the Yerkes-Dodson law shows that when your stress level is too high or too low, your performance suffers.

Also, keep in mind that some teachers won’t let you take the test if you show up late to class. Do yourself a favor and get there early.

2. Pack a Bag of Essentials

You may find yourself scrambling to do some last-minute studying, or get some food before your test. When this happens, you’re more likely to forget important materials like pencils or pens, a calculator, or books (for an open-book exam).

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Lindsay Bressman from Privateprep, a private tutoring company, recommends packing a bag of essentials that includes snacks, a bottle of water, a test-approved calculator (with fresh batteries), and #2 pencils (and erasers).

Consider packing your bag the night before your test so you can feel confident that you have everything you need when it’s time to leave in the morning.

3. Don’t Cram

It can be easy to lose track of time in the days leading up to a test, and as a result, a lot of students resort to cramming the night before a test; but this isn’t the most effective way to study.

Discipline yourself to spread out your study time. Parenting expert and children’s book author Julia Cook says, “Don’t cram…It’s hard on your brain! Instead, spread out your studying time over a few days or weeks. Practice doing sample problems and look over your class material every day until you take the test.”

4. Create a Test-Like Study Environment

Students often make the mistake of studying in a relaxed, comfortable environment. While you want to de-stress before a test, being too relaxed while studying can actually hinder your performance. Try to time yourself when you study and keep study aids (notes, books, etc.) to a minimum while attempting actual problems or questions.

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According to USA Test Prep, “Students often practice with far more assistance than they will have on the test. Stress to them that EVERY problem should be attempted – at least to begin with – as though it were being done on a test.” The more you can simulate a test-taking environment, the better you will do when it comes to the real thing.

5. Create a Routine

Having a routine or some sort of familiarity prior to a test can help ease stress and anxiety. “I have seen that test anxiety can be managed by having a plan in place that you follow every time you have to take a test,” says parenting expert Varda Epstein from Kars4Kids. “Just having that plan and sticking to it makes you feel calmer and like you’re more in control of the situation.”

Epstein recommends the following tips for your pre-test routine:

  • Eat a good dinner the night before that includes complex carbohydrates.
  • The morning of the test, eat breakfast to improve your memory, mood, and concentration. Whole grains will give you energy and keep you satisfied for a longer period of time.
  • Give yourself a pep talk before the test. Research proves kids who do this perform better on their tests than kids who don’t.

6. Read and Re-Read ALL directions

Students have a tendency to skip over test directions, either because they feel they’re unnecessary, or because they think it will save time. If you skip the directions, you may not be answering questions in the correct way, or you may miss out on important clues that could help you on the test.

According to TestingMom, “Many kids skip directions and go right to the questions, which may lead to them answering every question in a set wrong.” Don’t skip the directions, and if you’re unsure about something, ask the teacher.

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7. Focus on the Fundamentals

Tests are made up of a lot of different types of questions, and some are more challenging than others. When students approach a test, they need to control the things they can control, like understanding the basics.

“Many students stress about all of the things they may not know, but the reality is there will be less of those concepts – likely the harder problems – on the test,” says Ralston Medouze, a private tutor from Strive Academics. “For this reason, it’s important that students focus on the basics. Thoroughly understanding the basics of any subject does not only mean that they will get more questions right, but it will allow students to get through the easier problems faster, meaning they can spend more time working on the truly difficult problems.”

8. When in Doubt, Choose “None of the Above” or “All of the Above”

Multiple choice questions can be very confusing, but you can usually rule out certain outliers and narrow down your choices. Turns out, if you’re unsure, your best bet may be selecting “none of the above” or “all of the above.”

According to Business Insider, William Poundstone, author of Rock Breaks Scissors: A Practical Guide to Outguessing and Outwitting Almost Everybody, says, “‘none of the above’ or ‘all of the above’ were correct 52% of the time. Choosing one of these answers gives you a 90% improvement over random guessing.”

9. Take the Test Backward

This may seem counterintuitive, but there’s a logical method to this madness. “Take the test/exam backward,” says Sarah Tippett, Homeschool Base editor. “If you work backward, your brain has to think a bit more. The more thinking it does, the better recall you should have. Lots of the hardest questions are at the end of the exam and it’s best to tackle these when your brain is fresh.”

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Plus, questions toward the end of the test can often give you clues or hints for previous questions; go ahead and give it a try and see how it influences your performance.

10. Write Down the Important Stuff First

On test day, you most likely have lots of facts and figures or formulas (i.e. Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally) swirling around in your brain. Former teacher and counselor Julia Cook says, “Write down the important stuff that you need to memorize (formulas, facts, definitions, etc.) at the top or on the side of your test paper so they don’t clog up your brain and you don’t forget to use them.” These are important and you want to remember them, but it may help to write them down before you start your test.

Try these test-taking hacks to ease your anxiety and boost your performance. Which test-taking hacks have you found are successful? Let us know in the comments below!

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Maile Proctor

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Published on November 7, 2018

How to Homeschool in the 21st Century (For All Types of Parents & Kids)

How to Homeschool in the 21st Century (For All Types of Parents & Kids)

In 2016, it was estimated that 1.7 million children were being homeschooled in the U.S, roughly 3.3% of all school-aged children.[1] Although this may not sound like a big portion of the population, the growth rate of homeschooling has been 7 to15% per year for the last two decades.

The burgeoning numbers are not a coincidence. There are tremendous benefits to homeschooling, including one-on-one teaching, adaptability to individual needs and learning styles, a safe learning environment, encouraging learning for knowledge rather than grades, and tailoring a curriculum to the child’s interests.

Is homeschooling something that you have been considering for your family? With all of the tools and resources available for homeschoolers in the 21st century, it may be easier than you think.

How to Homeschool (Getting Started)

After thinking it through, you’ve decided that homeschooling is the right step for you and your family. Now what? Here are the first things you should do to get your homeschooling journey started on the right track.

Figure Out the Laws

Homeschooling is regulated by the state, not the federal government. The first step is to find the current and accurate legal requirements mandated by your state in order to educate your child legally.[2]

The regulations can vary widely, from strict guidelines to no guidelines at all. However, don’t be overwhelmed by the legal jargon. There are many resources and local communities for homeschooling families that can help you figure out the logistics.

Decide on an Approach

Every child’s needs are different. This is your chance to choose the homeschooling style or combination of styles that best fits your child’s learning style and interests. A brief description of seven different homeschooling methods are listed below.

Supplies/Resources

Often times, purchasing a homeschooling curriculum is done too early in the planning process, resulting in buyer’s remorse.

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A curriculum is not always needed for homeschooling, and other types of free or less structured resources are readily available.

Find a Community

Getting connected with a community of homeschoolers is one of the most important parts of building a successful and thriving homeschool environment for your kids.

Look for communities online for virtual support or a local group that you and your kids can interact with. Partnering with others fosters better socialization skills for the students and provides opportunities for field trips, classes, and outings that wouldn’t have otherwise been a part of the homeschooling experience.

7 Different Homeschooling Methods

1. School-At-Home

Also known as Traditional homeschool, School-At-Home uses essentially the same curriculum as the local private or public school but at home.

The lessons can be completed independently, but more commonly, they are administered by a parent or a teacher-facilitated online school.

  • Benefits: formal standards, wide selection of curricula, same pace as peers, short-term friendly
  • Drawbacks: expensive, inflexible, time consuming, parent can get easily burnt out
  • Resources: K12, Time4Learning, Abeka

2. Classical

One of the most popular homeschooling methods used, it borrows educational practices from Ancient Greece and Rome. Subject areas are studied chronologically so that students can understand the consequence of ideas over time.

Socratic dialogue fosters effective discussions and debate to achieve beyond mere comprehension. There is often a strong emphasis on Great Books[3] as well as Greek and Latin.

3. Unit Studies

Rather than breaking up education into subjects, unit studies approach each topic as a whole, studying it from the perspective of each subject area.

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For example, a unit study about animals could include reading books about animals, learning about the classification of animals, figuring out which animals live on which continents, etc. This method is often used as a technique in other more comprehensive educational methodologies.

  • Benefits: promotes thinking about concepts as a whole, not monotonous or redundant, student-directed, bolsters weaker subject areas, beneficial for teaching multi-age students
  • Drawbacks: incomplete, knowledge gaps, curriculum-dependent
  • Resources: Unit Study, Unit Studies, Unit Studies Made Easy, Konos

4. Charlotte Mason

This Christian homeschooling style utilizes shorts periods of study (15-20 minute max for elementary, 45 minute max for high school), along with nature walks and history portfolios.

Students are encouraged to practice observation, memorization, and narration often. With a focus on “living books” (stories with heroes, life lessons, socio-ethical implications), reading plays a big role in this student-paced teaching style.

5. Montessori

Maria Montessori developed this method through working with special needs children in the early 20th century.

With a primary focus on the student setting the pace and indirect instruction from the teacher, this approach includes free movement, large unstructured time blocks (up to 3 hours), multi-grade classes, and individualized learning plans based on interests.

6. Unschooling

Unschooling is a learning model largely based on the work of John Holt.[4] The teaching style focuses mainly on the students’ interests, putting priority on experiential, activity-based, and learn as you go approaches.

For basic skills such as reading, writing, and math, a systematic technique is employed, but testing and evaluations are typically not utilized. Teachers, in general, play more of a facilitator role.

7. Eclectic/Relaxed

As the most popular method of homeschool, eclectic homeschooling is child-directed, resourceful, and non-curriculum based.

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Parents can sample any combination of homeschooling methods and styles or resources. One growing sector of eclectic homeschooling combines part homeschooling with part traditional schooling.

How to Facilitate Homeschooling with Technology

One of the reasons homeschooling is more feasible than ever before is due to the accessibility of tools and resources to enhance the learning process.

Email

Email is a tool that has really stood the test of time. Invented in 1972, it is still used today as a primary means of communicating on the Internet.

It is a great way to share assignments, links, and videos between parent and student.

Google Drive/Calendar

Google Drive offers a multitude of essential programs that can come in handy for homeschoolers, such as Docs, Sheets, Slides, and more.

With its sharing capabilities, easy accessibility, and auto-save ability, it’s easier than ever to organize and complete assignments. It will improve students’ writing and typing skills, as well as eliminate the need for paper.

Google Calendar is an excellent tool for tracking assignment due dates, planning field trips and activities, and developing time management skills.

Ebooks

Rather than invest in physical copies of books, ebooks are a wonderful option for saving money and space. There are plenty of places that offer a free or paid subscription to a wide selection of ebooks:

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E-Courses

When a structured curriculum is necessary for teaching a certain topic, an e-course is the way to go.

From watercolors to calculus, there are e-courses available about almost everything. Including different teaching styles that vary from the parents will encourage students to learn in different ways.

The visual and auditory stimulation will also be beneficial in helping students understand and retain the concepts being taught.

Some recommendations:

Youtube

Youtube is not just a platform for music videos and cats doing funny things. There are a number of Youtube channels that produce quality educational videos, free of charge.

Creating a playlist of videos for various topics is a great way to supplement a homeschool education.

Some recommendations:

Final Thoughts

Homeschooling in the current age looks much different than it did ten years ago. There are more options and more flexibility when it comes to educating kids at home.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the idea of homeschooling your children if it could make a positive impact on your family.

Featured photo credit: Hal Gatewood via unsplash.com

Reference

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