Ho Ho Homework!

Last Updated: Dec 7, 2013 12:00:00 AM

Winter Break is coming! Tidings of comfort and joy? Well, yes, but there are certain other “holiday” preparations that you can’t pass up, preparations that are vital for your student’s success.

The holidays herald mid-term testing season for students in schools all over the country – and also the time when high school juniors should be registering for their first SAT and ACT. These preliminary steps should be taken now to prepare for the college admissions process that kicks into high gear by the end of junior year. In sum, it’s a period during which stress and performance anxiety surrounding exams can be overwhelming. So, it’s essential that students employ good, healthy, study and living habits to help them navigate midterms and college admission tests.

Here are some tips for keeping your head above water during the holiday exam period:


1) Prepare a Quiet Study Location – Set aside a spot where you won’t be distracted and it’ll likely stay quiet. Consider this: distractions can be minimized by always studying in same space; organization is essential in order to stay focused; study time is precious time; and a study space should never be too comfortable. You want your study area to encourage learning. NEVER STUDY IN BED! And finally: if you’re having trouble getting started, reorganize your study space (Why? See below)

2) Prepare to prepare – Setting oneself up for the act of studying increases motivation for those who are about to have an uncomfortable amount of face time with their classroom learning materials. Here’s what you need: proper lighting, ample space, writing utensils/printer ink cartridges, and a thorough To-Do list to aid in the organization/task-completion process.

3) Involve Yourself in Learning – Good study practices depend on active engagement in the review/learning process. That means getting your mind’s gears turning: Write out the assignment/expectations on a piece of paper before beginning, create your own review questions (especially for reading-intensive studying), and write journal entries about what you’ve learned to kick-start the thinking process. If you find yourself daydreaming, stop, get a pen and piece of paper, and on it write down all the thoughts distracting you. Then try to re-immerse yourself in studying.


1) Take Notes - Always take notes. If your teacher is explaining concepts, take notes. If your teacher is reviewing, take notes, even if you already took the notes that she is reviewing. If your teacher is explaining policies and procedures, take notes. Writing is a mnemonic technique, so there is more value to the act of taking notes than simply having a morsel of important information marked on paper. The best students are always looking for ways to strengthen and reinforce the learning process. Note-taking is an essential skill and strategy. Got it? Get it!

2) Ask Questions – There’s no shame in not understanding something or in needing assistance. The worst mistake a student in need could make would be to refuse help that’s necessary - and readily available. Asking questions, particularly of your teacher, is part of a healthy communication process between teacher and pupil. Keep the communication process open, especially during exam season.

3) Review Notes – Take your notes and comprehensively review them on a regular basis. If that means rewriting them, word-for-word, it’s time to get out pen and paper – or your laptop. Start with general concepts first and work towards more specific, complex, or sophisticated ideas later.

4) Involve Yourself in the Subject Material – Extended study periods lead to fatigue. It’s important to stay focused and not waste study time, so try to connect the subjects you’re studying to your real life circumstances. How could understanding history contribute to your career in the future? What math concepts are useful for aspiring painters or musicians? Try to tie what you are learning/reviewing to your own life to generate interest. This helps provide motivation and improve focus.

5) A Couple More Useful Tips

  • Create your own practice tests – Use your notes and classroom learning materials to create your own assessments.
  • Create or join a study group. Two or more heads are always better than one!
  • Ask as many questions as possible about the nature of the test so you’re fully prepared for what you will see on exam day

Remember, when all else fails, you can always call us for tutoring!

Topics: Tutoring Private-School


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