The Time to Start Planning is Now...
If you have a child at a school who does mid-year cumulative exams (Nightingale, Spence, St. Bernard’s, Dalton, etc…), the time to start planning is now. Below is our guide for your kids so they can ace their cumulative exams:
1. Ask your teacher what is covered or if a review might be offered.
Some teachers structure cumulative exams to cover absolutely everything learned since the first day of school while other teachers choose to exclude specific projects or topics or only include material through a certain date. Know what your teacher expects and then find out what might be offered in terms of review. Will your teacher be handing out a review packet? Or offer review sessions? Before you start on your own review plan, you’ll want to know what your teacher plans to provide.
2. Collect all unit tests, quizzes, and graded assignments for review.
November is the time to go through accordion binders/folders/desk drawers and backpacks to find all graded assessments from September on. Missing a test? Now is the time to find that out. Can’t find a lab assignment? This is a time to find it, panic-free. Collecting everything and organizing it by putting the units in chronological order help students scaffold awareness about the material they have covered and how much they have to review.
3. Map out a plan.
Now that you know how many units you need to cover, it’s time to put a review plan into your calendar (digital or otherwise). Slow and steady is much easier when there’s a lot of information to review and memorize, and in many classes units build on each other, which means the early work is fundamental to performing well on later topics. The calendar should leave at least a week (if not more) before testing to review all of the material and practice, so we suggest working backwards from that to map out a study plan.
4. Deal with problem areas first and then start from the beginning.
Weak on osmosis? Struggled with that one test on matrices? We recommend reviewing the trickiest stuff without the time pressure of a rapidly approaching exam and then working your way through each unit, chronologically.
5. Practice strategic testing.
All set with the details of the Compromise of 1850? Have your characters straight from the 5 novels you’ve read so far this year? Great, you’ve done the bulk of the time-consuming work ahead of studying, but you’re not done until you’ve figured out how to test strategically. You should know how long your test is (1 hour? 3?) and how much weight is likely to be given to each part (in-class essay 50% of your grade?) so that you can begin to plan your strategy for testing. You’ll also need to plan for sleep and food as well as learn new skills for coping with anxiety and fatigue--otherwise all that hard work won’t line up with your performance on the official test.
6. Take care of your body and mind.
Tests are like performances or big sports games: you need skill and practice, but you also need a rested body and a resilient mind. Staying up all night studying often does more harm than good (hence starting early), and lack of sleep often weakens the immune system (who wants strep throat during exams week?). An anxious mind is perfectly normal before and during testing, but it doesn’t help solve quadratic equations or outline logical arguments, so you’ll want to work with your tutor to incorporate tools into your repertoire to manage these feelings while you test.
Unlike a test that covers one, discreet unit, cumulative exams ask students to synthesize multiple concepts and to hold a lot of information in their brains. They also carry with them more anxiety, not to mention the exhaustion that comes with studying for multiple exams at once, which means steady preparation over time is the best way to ace these tests. Most of our kids book an organizational session early on to craft a study plan and then book extra sessions ahead of their exams.