Category Archives: Exams

Time Travel pt 2: Navigating the Now & the Later

Procrastination is a disconnect between the NOW and the LATER. Overcoming the urge to procrastinate requires reconnecting with our own future. “Time Travel” can help bridge the NOW and the LATER.

In Time Travel part 1: Ben Franklin & Managing the Now old Ben gave us some great advice on the consequences of delay.  Ben was an incredibly productive man whose pursuits and accomplishments spanned science, literature, politics, and business.  Good for him.

But how can we mortals get a little piece of Ben in our lives?

Now & Later

When Franklin tells us to do now what we would put off for later, he’s speaking to our Future Selves, the “Later” in our lives who has to take care of what our Present Selves don’t want to do in the “Now.”

Ben, therefore, is telling us to let our Future Self speak for us NOW and not LATER.

Unfortunately for us procrastinators, that conversation tends, instead, to work like this:

Present Self:  “Oh, man, I gotta get to that essay that’s due next Tuesday.”
Future Self: “Yeah you do! Let’s get it going!”

Present Self:  “Huh, what’s that noise?” 
Future Self: “It’s me, I mean, it’s you. But it’s you next Monday night cramming in that stupid essay you blew off over the weekend.”

Present Self:  “I have no idea who you are. Go away.”
Future Self: “Don’t worry about me, just worry about that essay. Could you at least get it started, just a little? That way I don’t have to do it all — again.”

Present Self:  “Yeah, yeah, whatever, gotta get to that essay. Will do! Cool, settled that.  But first things first, gotta get in that power nap I need, and, oh yeah, there’s that crazy show tonight. Awesome…!”
Future Self: “Noooooooo!”

Why do we do this to ourselves?

What Franklin doesn’t share with us is why our NOW so easily turns into LATER . He just says we’re worthless and weak if we put things off.

I love Ben, but what’s missing here is that the judgement he passes on us is part of the reason we deserve it. So often I’ve heard parents call their children “lazy” — and children frequently say it, too, “Oh, I’m just lazy.” Or,  students will say, “Heh, I work best under pressure, anyway.”

These are just rationalizations for putting things off, and the more we repeat them the more likely we are to keep using the LATER to stand in for and excuse the poor decisions in the NOW.

We do eventually get to it, just LATER at the deadline when we no longer have any choice but to finally do it.

Wouldn’t it be great, then, if we could feel that same pressure of the deadline NOW rather than LATER when we no longer have any choice — and we’re running out of time?

Navigating between the Now and the Later: Time Travel

In working with students who have time management and prioritization struggles, I have found that narrowing the distance between the NOW and the LATER can be an effective tool for engaging workflow more regularly.

We call it “Time Travel,” by which we mean seeing oneself both in the present and future tense at the same time — and as the same person.

If, for example, I’m worried about a test tomorrow, yet I know I have an essay due in three days, without that innate organizational sense of rigidly fixing my efforts on both I might focus on the one at the expense of the other. After all, I still have a few more days for the essay…

Instead, I might better equalize my worry about both by seeing them equally imperative NOW.

Otherwise I’m likely to slip into the LATER mentality and just study for the test at the expense of work I could be getting done on the essay, as well. (Of course, I could have started studying for the test yesterday, but these situations do happen.)

What’s happening is that the EXAM has a hard deadline NOW, so I get to it. Meanwhile, the two-day gap between today and the essay deadline shields me from the pressure I could otherwise feel for the paper, thus greasing my path to deferral until the night before it’s due.

Without that rigid, internal clock of Ben Franklin’s that paces things evenly, whether NOW or LATER, we have to deliberately seek out that urgency of the deadline that usually only works for us in the LATER

Somehow, if I can treat NOW and LATER as the same thing, I’d be far better at prioritizing my tasks and meeting my goals in an orderly manner..

Time Travel

It’s easy to explain Time Travel but hard to act on it. So let’s break it back down to its simplest, that conversation between NOW and LATER:

Present Self: “I just don’t feel like doing this now! I mean, it’s not due until Tuesday.”
Future Self: “Heh, this is Monday night calling. It’s 2 a.m. and this thing is killing me. Hello!

Present Self:  “Oh, heh, Monday, how are you?”
Future Self: “A little freaked out. Do me a favor, you know that assignment that’s due Tuesday? Could you at least start on it, so I don’t have to do it all myself?”

Present Self“You got it, Dude, will get going now!”
Future Self: “You’re the best, thanks so much! When you become me on Monday, you’re gonna be so glad you got it going earlier.

The idea here is to create a dialogue between who we are NOW and who we are making demands upon LATER.

If we let the LATER speak to the NOW, we have a far greater chance of getting the NOW taken care of so we don’t have to deal with it — and in a panic — LATER.

If find that Keeping an ongoing conversation with my Future Self is an incredibly powerful tool to avoid putting things off, even those things I really don’t feel like doing now. I say to myself, “Look I know it’ll be just as tedious later, so why not get it out of the way NOW?”

Good luck building a bridge between your NOW and LATER!

– Michael

Five tips on how to “study better” for an exam: extending memorization for brain memory and recall

memoryWhen students say they don’t “test well” or that they “don’t know how to study,” parents and teachers often respond with suggestions — and criticism — to, well, just “study harder.” Great. But what does “study harder” actually mean?

We can see how “studying harder” might actually work if we divide learning into the two distinct parts of:

  • Factual Knowledge
  • Application of Knowledge

The first is straight memory, while the second requires its application, by which we mean extension through comparison, analysis, evaluation, and so on. Thereby “studying harder” requires development of first, factual knowledge, and, second, using it. Continue reading

A Successful Assessment pt 3: how to take a test (or, reading instructions & not running out of time)

Test Prep help from the A+ ClubWhen a parent of a middle or high school teen worries that “my student doesn’t test” well, what’s missing is a combination of goal setting, preparation and execution.

As discussed in the previous posts on “Successful Assessments,” testing success consists of:

  • Identifying teacher/ test expectations (“no surprises”)
  • Preparing effectively (learning v. cramming)
  • Executing on test day (test taking strategies)

Test prep above all else

“Easy” tests are those students have or are effectively prepared for: if the student knows what to expect and prepares for it, the results will be strong.

That said, there are still a few things a student can do to better results on the test day.

A couple do-nots on test day include: Continue reading

A Successful Assessment pt 2: how to prepare for a test (or learning all along not just cramming)

Successful Test Prep from the A+ ClubParents concerned about their teen’s middle and high school exam and test prep might consider that studying isn’t just a matter of reviewing notes and study guides. Successful testing requires ongoing learning.

Here are some strategies for parents to empower their student’s exam prep and overall academic success.

In our series on  Successful Assessment: how to prepare for a test (or why doesn’t my child test well?), we are reviewing the essential parts of successful testing:

  1. No Surprises (identified teacher expectations)
  2. Student Prepared (successful learning)
  3. Student had time to finish (successful test execution)

This post regards student preparation. It’s one thing to know what will be on a test (see Part 1: Identifying Expectations) and also to understand it . But can you perform it yourself? Continue reading

A Successful Assessment pt 1: how to know what will be on the test (or identifying teacher expectations)

Successful Testing from the A+ ClubFor successful testing, students need to know what will be on the test. Sounds obvious, but parents don’t want to hear from their teens that there were “surprises” on a test or that they studied for the wrong thing.

This edition of the Successful Assessment will review how to help your teenage student identify what will be on a test.

As outlined in the introductory post, How to approach a test (or why doesn’t my child test well?), at the A+ Club, we help middle, high school and college students succeed on formal assessments, what we usually call “quizzes” and “tests.”  Our quick measure of a successful assessment means:

  1. No Surprises (identified teacher expectations)
  2. Student Prepared (successful learning)
  3. Student had time to finish (successful test execution)

No surprises!

“No Surprises” on a test means the student knew what to expect, knew what to study, and was familiar with every part or aspect of the test. Continue reading

A Successful Assessment: how to approach a test (or why doesn’t my child test well?)

We often hear from parents that “my child doesn’t test well.”

Teens have lots of excuses for their grades, and blaming it on the test is one that parents fall for all the time.

In the A+ Club, we measure middle, high school and college student success on a test or major assessment in terms of 1) identifying teacher expectations; 2) student preparation;  and 3) successful execution on the test day. Continue reading

“I don’t test well” — or do you just not prepare enough?

Testing issues?

You understand it in class, but not when you have to do it on the test?

You do all your homework, but then the teacher pops a question you never saw before?

Actually, you test precisely as well as you learn.

Nice try, though.

We hear this from parents as much as from students:

“My daughter does all her homework but she just doesn’t test well.”

And then

“I think she has test anxiety.”

It’s almost comforting to know that your child doesn’t test well. One would want to sympathize with that, because it would seem to explain things. But it’s just not true.

Here are the components of “testing well”:

  1. Identify teacher expectations

  2. Internalize them through repetitive practice.

“Testing” is demonstration of learning in what we call a “formal assessment.” Certainly there are additional pressures and conditions to render a formal assessment more difficult than homework or classwork. There’s the time limit, there’s the formality of the situation, and the discomfort a teacher getting serious all of a sudden. But that doesn’t change the fact that none of those additional challenges do anything but emphasize preparedness — or lack thereof.

Guided v. Independent Practice

For students who simply do not engage the workflow that teachers expect, they will not “test well” unless they are exceptionally bright and can learn on the fly without studying. Their grades will still suffer, because middle and high school grades are usually no more than 30 or 40 percent from formal assessments.

So acing every test without doing any homework starts you off on a B or C, and maintaining even those grades requires 100% on tests and quizzes. Good luck with that.

For students who follow in the classroom, who understand teacher expectations, and who do the homework and studying that’s required of them — and still do not “test well,” it’s not a “testing” issue. It’s the learning.

A couple of things may be going on:

1. Compliance without learning:

What we call “overly compliant” students are more concerned with fulfilling the form of teacher (or parent) expectations without actually engaging its substance. When this happens, homework and studying happen without real learning. It shows up as high  homework (process) and low test (learning) grades.

2. Lack of lesson internalization:

Whether or not the student engages the expected workflow, if test scores are low, then the student is simply not studying enough. Experts will tell you how it takes 30 distinct acts of learning/practicing something to fully internalize, i.e., to full know it.

With school work, those 30 or whatever acts of learning start with the teacher’s first lesson, then continue through the “guided practice,” in which the teacher shows and leads the students in the lesson (setting expectations, engaging students, building relevancy and breaking it down for understanding — you know, all those things a good teacher does…) and on to enough “independent” practice through which the student has applied the teacher’s learning her or himself.

A quick way to measure “internalization” is to try to teach it to someone else. If you can’t explain it to someone who doesn’t already know it, then you don’t really know it. This is how a parent can engage a child in studying topics that the parent doesn’t know about: “explain it to me.” If the student can’t, then the student needs more learning, be it guided or independent practice or both.

But here’s the crutch: is it important enough to the student to apply him or herself to it fully?

Relevancy

So let’s add an additional component to “testing well”:

3. Making it important enough to study and practice enough (relevancy and commitment)

Overly compliant students do not engage lessons meaningfully, as do other sorts of underperformers who may procrastinate, lack  executive function and other secretarial skills and do not process and practice enough independently.

Just as we would ask the internally-motivated student who learns only topics of interest, the overly compliant, externally-motivated student must adopt that curiosity and drive to learn of the intrinsic learner in order to get past “I don’t test well.”

Both sets must apply themselves with adequate  preparation, practice, and purpose in order to raise those test grades, even in an unenjoyable class.

Heh, it’s only a grade — which actually matters.

So quit making excuses about “testing issues” and get to work really learning it so that when you do have to spit it back out on a test amidst formal, “sit-down and shut-up,” nerve-wracking settings, it’s actually easy — because you already and truly know it.

– Michael

Why do students cheat? Procrastination and cheating

Shhhh… academic dishonesty going on.

Well, yeah, students cheat. Schools look upon it as a horrible violation of civic rules, a sure sign of a life of failure ahead, and they threaten dire consequences for it. Frankly, it’s more like a speeding violation than the theft that it is: cheaters rarely get caught, and usually just for the big things (call it “reckless cheating”).

As with speeding, treating cheating as an offense against mankind won’t stop it. Like all things in schools, the snap of the finger just doesn’t magically transform children into little angels and prodigies. So they cheat. Continue reading

Three Simple Ways to Make Memorization Easier from The A+ Club

While it is best to retain information through a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter at hand,

sometimes that’s asking too much.

Particularly for young students who cannot yet choose their field of study, passing a test might call for some rigorous and effective memorization. The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC helps students learn the executive function skills many lack through our online tutoring and mentoring programs in a variety of subjects. Expert educators also offer advice and strategies, such as the following memorization tips, to help students help themselves.

Check out some of The A+ Club’s tips for retaining information: Continue reading