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Tools to help students prep for exams

We are closing out the first semester of the year, and for many of us, this means semester exams! Alright, let’s be honest…cumulative exams can be as stressful for teachers as they are for our students. Recalling information taught over an extended period of time is no small ask, and studying for this type of exam is a skill that needs to be taught. If you’re students are getting ready for semester exams (or you just want some good tips for helping students be prepared for any ole’ test) here are my favorite tips and tools to help students prep for exams!

First, some practical’s!

As we all know, effective studying requires a bit more than a fun review game the day before the test. (Although – don’t worry, I LOVE a good review game!!) As teachers, we can help our students prepare for upcoming exams by keeping a few things in mind:

Don’t forget to share the exam date.

I know, super obvious, right? You’d be surprised by how easy is it to forget to communicate test date information until just a few days before test day. Unfortunately, this nearly guarantees bad studying from all of your students. Sure, some students are good at “cramming” and can make that work, but for many others, advance notice is required if they have any hope of truly preparing. I recommend sharing upcoming test dates at least one week (ideally two) in advance.

If your school pre-schedules dates for final exams, consider including these dates in your class syllabus at the beginning of each school year.

Use study guides.

If you want your students to dedicate some time to reviewing the test content prior to the day of the test, offering a study guide is a good idea! The best study guides are more than just a list of key terms and main ideas from the unit. I prefer my study guides to be interactive with questions to complete. In this format, using a study guide becomes one of my favorite active study strategies.

Personally, I like to dedicate some time at the end of each unit to completing the unit study guide. These can be done independently or with a partner. As they work to complete the guide, students will need to review the course material and educational content from the rest of unit. This is the best way I’ve found to really get my students reviewing their notes. Here are a few examples:

Set requirements for review game participation.

Game day is the best day, right?! At least in my middle school classroom, I’ve rarely come across a student who didn’t love a good review game. Who can blame them? They are a fun way to encourage studying! BUT – as we’ve already established, one day of review games simply won’t cut it. That’s why I like to make completion of the study guide a requirement for review game participation. If students haven’t completed their study guide, they spend “game day” finishing that assignment. This requirement is a great way to incentivize students to actually finish the study guide.

Tools to help students prep for exams.

When it comes to effective test preparation, there truly isn’t a “one size fits all” strategy. Just like teaching students requires differentiation and individuality, finding the best study tools for each individual student can be a bit of trial and error. With such a wide variety of tools available, there truly is something for every learner. Here are a few of my favorite study strategies and tools to help students prep for exams:

Self-Made Quizzes and Tests

When students are asked to design their own self-created quizzes, it requires them to go back into their notes and review their student learning. When instructing students to create their own test, I require them to use a variety of different types of questions, including multiple-choice questions and essay questions. I’ve even found it helpful to give them the actual format of the test and have them create a practice test following the same format.

Once each student has created a test AND corresponding answer key, I have them swap tests with a partner to see how well they can complete another student’s self-created test.

Digital Flashcards

Flashcards are one study time tool that have stood the test of time. One of the greatest perks of modern technology is the sheer wealth of online tools and websites created to better support student success while studying. Gone are the days of messy, difficult to read, or lost flashcards! With programs like Quizlet available, students are able to review their content again and again. Quizlet has many ready-made flashcard packs for you to choose and assign, or you can create a deck specifically designed for your class.

Quizizz

As far as digital learning platforms go, Quizizz is one of my favorites! This platform allows your to assign standards-based and customizable interactive lessons paired with assessments. These assessments go beyond simple multiple choice quizzes, but they challenge the students to think about the content in new and different ways.

Review Games

There are many ways to run a good review game! Personally, I like to sprinkle a few of the actual test questions into the game, just to keep my students paying attention. Keep reading – I’ll share a few of my favorites games down below.

Digital Review Games

Once again, the tech giants have wowed us with their ability to create learning platforms that are fun and easy to use for teachers and students alike! (Amazing, right?!) Here are a few of my favorite online learning games that have enchanted my students while boosting their study skills:

Blooket

Boasting a new take on the classic trivia game, this platform allows you to choose (or create) a set of gaming questions and a game mode. As the teacher, you will host a game on the big screen while students compete using individual devices.

Kahoot

Kahoot allows review games to be played in multiple ways. As the teacher, you could host a live Kahoot game that all students participate at once. You can also assign student-paced games that students can play during free work time or even at home.

Gimkit

Gimkit is a unique gaming platform that allows students to earn in-game cash for their correct responses to review questions. They can use this money to purchase upgrades and powerups to help them in future gaming.

Tech-Free Review Games

Sometimes, old school is the best way to go! That’s right…I’m talking about the classic review games we probably all played as kids that are STILL exciting for students today! (Yes – middle schoolers can, in fact, get excited about a game that does not involve a screen.) Here are a few of my favorite tech-free review games:

Trashketball

The game is simple…answer a question and shoot a “basket.” All you need is a small trashcan, some review questions, and a mini basketball.

Around the World

In this game, students compete in 1-1 question competitions. The first student to answer the question correctly advances to face off with the next student.

Student Created Review Games

I love instructing my students to create their own review games. Some opt to make board games, others will make card games, or memory matching games. There’s usually a few versions of “Jeopardy” thrown in the mix. This option is truly a win-win! Students are studying throughout the creation of their games AND during game-play time!

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