Learning how to study for tests is a key skill that all students need to know if they are going to be successful in their A-level courses. In A-levels, end of unit (EOU) tests are used by a teacher to assess how much the students know about a given topic in the course. They are administered and marked by the teacher every three to four weeks. If the student does well on the test they are praised for working hard and meeting or exceeding their predicted grade. If they don’t do so well on the test the teacher may suggest attending subject tutorial once a week or place them on an academic contract.
As a parent, how is your child doing on their EOU tests? Are they passing their EOU tests with their predicted grade or higher? Do they feel confident when studying for and taking their EOU tests? Or, are they failing their EOU tests? Do they feel as if studying for the tests is a waste of time because they don’t know what concepts will be on the tests?
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Graeme Matthews shares the six strategies that you need to know so that you can be successful in your A-level studies. Get organised. Learn note-taking strategies. Learn how to manage your workload. Learn how to study for EOU tests. Learn how to study for final exams. Learn how to improve your mindset.
If you are interested in helping your child earn their predicted grade or higher on their EOU tests then keep on reading!
Tip #1: Preparation: Notes And Homework Sets
The first step your child needs to take when learning how to study for tests is to be prepared for their EOU tests. Being prepared for their EOU tests means that they are organised, have a master set of notes and understand the homework sets for the module.
They need to be organised which was a concept was discussed in detail in the blog post Six Form Essentials: How To Help Your Child Get Organised For Their A-Levels. In brief, they need to have an A4 lever arch folder, college ruled paper, plastic sheet protectors, tabbed dividers, coloured pens and pencils, a calculator and a school planner.
They need to have a master set of notes for the unit. Creating a master set of notes was a concept that was discussed in detail in the blog post How To Take Notes At A-Level To Earn An A*. In brief, they need to have a detailed set of notes based on the specification for the unit which allows them to complete homework sets and past paper questions to a high level of accuracy without referring to their textbook.
And they also need to understand their homework sets for the unit. Scheduling time to complete their homework set which was discussed in detail in the blog post A-Level Success Tips: How To Manage Your Workload. In brief, they need to understand their homework set for the unit. This means that they understand and explain the concept being tested in each question on the homework set.
If they aren’t prepared for their EOU test now is not the time for your child to start with day one of the course and try to get caught up with their organization, notes and homework sets. Rather, they should focus on completing a master set of notes and understand the homework set for the unit. If they don’t understand their homework set it is imperative that they see their subject tutor as quickly as possible to learn the concepts being tested on their homework set.
How To Study For Tests: Tip #2: Revise By Question Type
The second step your child needs to take when learning how to study for tests involves having a strategy for completing past paper questions. Most students complete packs of past paper questions by answering the questions in sequential order. They then make a note of what questions they answered incorrectly when marking their work and repeat the process. The issue with this method is that they are not practising a template for a model answer and practising what they understand rather they are reinforcing the incorrect way of answering a question until they complete a pack of questions and mark their work.
A better approach is for your child to complete the questions strategically by answering the questions in order of decreasing point value. Your child answers all of the six-marker questions in the question pack and repeats the process for the five-marker questions and work their way through the pack answering sequentially lower point value questions until they had answered all of the questions in the pack.
If they run out of time they change pen colours and keep working until they have answered all of the questions in the pack. They then mark their work using the mark scheme and update their notes to include any keywords or definitions, concepts or strategies for answering questions.
The reason that this approach is so effective is that allows the student to model correct answers for each of the types of questions. It also allows the student to get into the habit of answering the large point questions first on the exam. And it allows them to become more relaxed on the exam by quickly earning their predicted grade on the exam.
Tip #3: Use The Mark Scheme To Guide Your Revision
The third step your child needs to take is to use the mark scheme to guide their revision for the EOU test. Too often, students complete packs of past paper questions with the mark scheme open which gives them a false sense of security about the content on the test. They believe that they know the course content when actually they don’t know the course content. Or they don’t understand how to use the mark schemes effectively in their revision.
The use of mark schemes in a student’s revision for the tests has been discussed in detail in the blog post A-Level Mark Schemes: 5 Ways They Can Be Used To Earn An A*.
When using a mark scheme to mark their work your child should complete the following three tasks:
- Check the mark scheme for keywords or phrases which are printed in bold and are commonly known as Quality Of Language (QOL) and update their notes to include these terms.
- Check the point value for question in the mark scheme and make sure that their answer contains enough concepts, i.e. one concept per point to earn all of the points that the question is worth.
- Check that they have the concept in the answer in the mark scheme in their notes. This will allow them to maximise the value that they get from using mark schemes in their revision plan.
If they follow these steps your child will see a rapid increase in the grades that they earn on their EOU tests. This is because they will be engaging with the mark scheme in what is known as active learning rather than just reading the mark scheme in what is known as passive learning.
Tip #4: Think Like A Teacher
The fourth step that your child needs to take when learning how to study for tests is to think like a teacher when they are studying for their EOU tests. Students often wonder what is on their EOU tests and how they should best revise for their tests. Sometimes they are surprised to see a concept on the test and wonder if they have been taught the concept in their lessons.
Thinking like a teacher allows a student to bridge the gap between the course specification, their notes, their homework set and their EOU test. Students need to keep in mind that the test is timed and so there can only be so many questions on the test. With this in mind, their teacher has to choose the questions carefully when making the test to make sure the test is levelled for the average student in the class and covers all of the major topics covered in the unit.
When revising for their test, your child should keep the following three points in mind when reviewing questions.
First, they should check to see if the question is checking their understanding of a major topic that is listed in the course specification for the unit. If it is then it’s a type of question that is most likely going to be on the test. Also, if the question keeps appearing in the pack of past paper questions they are completing where maybe small changes have been made to the question then this is another strong indication that this type of question will be on the test.
Second, is the question a synoptic question? A synoptic question is a question which includes two concepts in the question and requires an understanding of each of the concepts and the relationship between the concepts in order to answer the question. It is a favourite type of question for teachers to use on exams because it allows them to test the student’s understanding of two related concepts without using too many points on the test.
Third, is the question a challenging question? When a teacher makes a test they have to be able to differentiate between the A* and the A students. To do this they normally include one question on the test that requires a higher level of mathematics ability or a deeper understanding of a complex concept. When revising for an EOU test look for questions that fit these criteria and make sure that you understand them as they will probably be on the test.
If your child follows these three simple rules when studying for their EOU test they will see a marked improvement in their test scores because they will be thinking like a teacher.
Tip #5: Complete Past Paper Questions Under Timed Conditions
The fifth step your child needs to take when learning how to study for tests is to complete past paper questions under timed conditions. A lot of students complete past paper questions under non-exam conditions when revising for their EOU tests. They complete past paper questions without keeping an eye on the time with the thought that they are better off learning the material and that they will complete some past paper questions under timed conditions at a future date. The issue with this idea is that most students don’t tend to complete past paper questions under timed conditions because they run out of time studying for their EOU tests.
A better idea is to always complete past paper questions under timed conditions. If your child runs out of time completing the pack of past paper questions they should change pen colours and keep on working until they have completed the pack of past paper questions. After they have marked them and updated their master set of notes they need to complete the next pack of past paper questions more quickly while maintaining a high level of accuracy.
The idea is to be able to complete a pack of past paper questions in 90% of the allotted time. So, if they have 60 minutes of past paper questions your child should be able to complete the pack of past paper questions in 54 minutes. If they practice answering past paper questions in 90% of the allotted time on the EOU test they will have a few minutes to spare at the end of the test to check their work. And they will not feel as if they are working under time pressure on the test.
How To Study For Tests: 5 Strategies To Earn An A*
In order to earn their predicted grades on higher on their EOU tests your child needs to complete the following:
- Be organised and have a set of master notes for the module.
- Study by question type.
- Use the mark scheme to guide their revision.
- Think like a teacher
- Complete past papers under timed conditions.
If they complete these five steps discussed in this blog post your child will earn the highest grade that they can on their EOU tests.