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Preparation + Strategy = Success

Preparation + Strategy = Success
Kim Stewart, Upper School Learning Specialist

“I work better under pressure, so I don’t need to do it immediately.”  “I’ll wait until I’m in the mood.” “I’ve got too many other things to do first.”  

Do these excuses sound familiar? These rationalizations and several others were discussed during a workshop that my fellow Upper School Learning Specialist Jillian DeBusk and I hosted in late January. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss test anxiety, a common issue that many high school students report hampers their confidence and ability to demonstrate their learning satisfactorily on assessments.

Adequate preparation for tests bolsters confidence and lessens anxiety. We discussed how to develop the self discipline needed to begin studying early and avoid cramming. The students talked about their struggles with procrastination and several strategies to avoid procrastinating were introduced. One that resonated with the students was to make one’s study plans official by sharing the plan with a friend or family member and using this accountability partner to stay on task. A second suggestion was to use the “five-minute plan.” The idea is to tackle the task for five minutes. At the end of five minutes, most often students find themselves able to continue and complete the task at hand. One student shared an idea that she and her mom developed. The student writes all the assignments and tasks she needs to complete on Post-it notes. The notes are folded and put into a bowl, and the student removes them one at a time to complete each task, displaying the Post-it note when she finishes each one. We all liked the randomness this strategy creates and are excited to try it out.

Sitting in a circle, we practiced techniques to keep anxiety at bay or handled, should it develop while taking a test. We participated in a breathing/relaxation exercise, practiced positive self talk, and supported each other as we all sat tall and smiled with confidence. Visualization is a technique that athletes use, and the students discussed its benefits. We talked about how to adapt this technique for test taking. We shared recommendations for what to do when one first receives a test. Quickly writing down equations and other memorized facts helps quiet the fear that one might forget and frees the mind for deeper thinking and analysis. It is helpful to look over the test and budget one’s time for each section. Don’t get hung up on a tough question; do your best and come back to it should there be time at the end. Finally, a bit of perspective and kindness towards oneself goes a long way.

While formal assessments are just one way students demonstrate their learning at Dana Hall, the Learning Specialists are committed to helping all of our students demonstrate mastery on exams and tests. We are here to empower our students to reflect on their learning and understand what skills and strategies they can use to be successful.