The last time I broke out into hives was when a new student I was working with said she was “looking over her notes” to prepare for an upcoming exam.
You see, that passive eyeball approach is up at the top of an academic coaches’ list of What Not To Do When Studying For Finals. In between scratching (due to my allergy to ineffective study habits), I explained to my student that if she’s not actively grappling with the material by testing her recall and understanding, she may as well be spending her time getting a mani-pedi for all the good it will do her on test day.
“But this is how I always get ready for tests!” she explains, handing me calamine lotion.
“Uh huh. And how’s that method working for you?”
“Well, I’m just not a great test-taker, that’s all.”
And there it is: the difference between preparing for the test and taking the test. Oftentimes students believe that they are poor test takers if they are unable to recall information when it's game time, but in many cases the experience of going blank is actually tied with the test prep the student did before exam day.
“I’m not convinced of that diagnosis,” I reply, getting all House on her. “Maybe you’re just not studying with enough ooomph. Are you willing to try something different this time?”