1. Start early
Most kids like to wait to the last minute and cram everything in at the last moment. Current research shows that the best way to learn something is to review the material multiple times over the course of a week or two rather than all at once for many hours. So rather than planning one 3-hours study session for history, it’s more effective to set up three 1-hour sessions over the course of a week. Use your planner (Looking for a great planner? Check this one out) to map out your study sessions.
2. Mix it up
It’s good for the brain to review material and then practice it in random order so that you learn how to recognize the problem and pick the best solution. If you are using flashcards, mix up the order. If you are using study guides, review the information randomly rather than chronologically or the order of the guide. Also, it’s good to mix up subjects as well: rather than focusing for four hours on one topic, spend an hour each on four different topics.
3. Test yourself frequently
Rereading notes might help you familiarize yourself with material, but it doesn’t help you to retrieve that information from your brain when you need it on the test. The most effective way to learn material is to test yourself. You can do this by re-reading a section of your notes and then putting the material away and either summarizing what you reviewed outloud or writing it on a piece of paper. You can also ask friends or family to quiz you or ask you to explain what you are learning. Flashcards are also a great way to test yourself.
Another great way to learn is to apply the information you are learning to something you already know. This can be in the form of a metaphor or connecting something about the subject to something that is already familiar to you.
3a. Get Sleep (Should be #1)
Sleep is when the brain processes and prunes the information needed for the next day’s exam. It’s a necessary part of the learning process.
Teenagers need between 8-9 hours of sleep and while they are biologically drawn to going to bed after 11, during and before finals it’s key to make sure that they are getting to bed earlier than normal.
Want to learn more about what helps people learn?
Listen to this 13-minute podcast interview of Peter Brown, author of Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.
Listen to this 60-minute podcast on the "Science of Smart" to learn more about how the benefits of bilingual education, how tests are powerful learns for learning and how variation is the key to deeper learning.