Learning Tools to Prepare for Testing

For many students, even adults, the word “test” instantly creates a feeling of anxiety. Some experience mental blocks while others endure their stomach clenched into knots. The question is, do you want to change how you perceive “the test?” Yes, too often, students do not put forth the effort or procrastinate, because they already feel defeated. Changing the perception means altering a feeling about testing into empowerment and confidence. It begins with learning more about what makes you a successful student. Here are six tools to help you prepare and succeed through testing. (One warning: Studying does not imply “cramming” your mind with information a day or two prior to the test.) The moment of success begins with discovering tools that will aid in learning the material. The right “tool” can open your mind and help you become successful.

What is Your Learning Style?

There is a student in your class who has the gift of listening, remembering and excelling in testing. You may wonder why she has this ability, and you don’t. She is an auditory-styled learner. She studies through talking out loud and listening to audio books or recorded lectures, but she does not feel confident in her note-taking abilities. In fact, she secretly envies you as a visual-styled learner. You need to see it to understand. To make sense of material, you rely on flash cards, reading, and rewriting notes, which often feels time-consuming and exhausting. Combine the two and a student becomes a tactile-style learner.   She relies on a hands-on approach to learning by listening to an audio book and following along with the text or using a computer, which satisfies visual, auditory and tactile styles.  

Once you discover your learning style, you can pinpoint effective learning techniques. The goal is to “work” smarter, not harder.

Learning Techniques

  • Flash cards: All three learning styles can use flash cards.   While a tool is helpful, it is only effective if used correctly. If you are using flash cards to help you study spelling words, for example, write the vowels in one color and the consonants in another. Using color is an effective mind trick. For studying key vocabulary or terms, flash cards are a great tool to promote understanding.
  • Dry-Erase Boards and Graphic Organizers: For the visual and tactile learner, information can be presented on a dry-erase board. Using Venn Diagrams or two or three columned graphs can help a student make sense of literature, biology, science, history and other subjects.
  • Written Graphic Organizers: Are you having difficulty remembering a long list of characters in a novel or a sequence of events? Try writing each name or headline at the top of a page in a spiral notebook, and listing a few character traits or headlines with examples. It’s easy to write an essay or organize events when the information is already recorded.
  • Cornell Note Method: Under the headline “work smarter, not harder” is a note-taking method to help all three learning styles. It will eliminate the need to recopy notes, help the student focus during class, and offer him or her guidance during studying sessions. After dividing a sheet of paper in half, use only the right side of the paper to take notes. Retention of the material occurs when students read their notes after class; therefore, the left side of the paper will be used to further expand on the information. Perhaps notes could be taken from reading a chapter in a textbook or a handout.   With more time spent on learning the material, less time will be needed to study or “cram” for a test.

In determining your learning style, the next step is to start studying with one chosen method. I will warn you. Not every method will be effective. Quite naturally, some will work great while others may require a tweak or two. In this new year, students can change their perspectives and view testing with an “I can” attitude. With a few effective strategies and tossing out the word “procrastination,” students will discover that “smart studying practices” equals feeling great when testing day arrives!