April 15, 2016

With so many exams upcoming, create an “exam calendar” for best results

Despite the feeling that the school year is finally winding down, students’ fourth quarters will bring tests, tests, and more tests. Some students will prepare for the AP exams, others for finals, and even more for ERBs, MCAS, and SATs. When there are so many exams on the horizon, students need a way to manage and track their study plans. One great option is to generate a “Test Calendar” that is separate from other academic or general calendars and allows students to prioritize their study process.

How to Create a Test Calendar

2Paper: Set aside time to set up and fill in a paper calendar with your child, one that includes test dates and study goals leading up to those dates. Your child should print out at least one month-long calendar template (if not two or three). She can also use a traditional full year calendar or even a whiteboard calendar. With the calendar at the ready, cross-reference class syllabi, your child’s assignment notebook, testing websites, etc. to find the dates of testing and record them. Your child can then use “Backward Design” to envision what she will need to know by her exam date. With her envisioned destination in mind, work backward to schedule study goals that will help her get there. You might even suggest color-coding to keep study plans for each individual test clear and separate. Finally, make copies of the calendar as needed and post them in visible places where your child will be reminded of her plans. Most major exams are in May or June, but preparing in April will give your child an edge and help her feel calm and ready when exam days arrive.

Electronic: Working with an electronic calendar, like Apple’s iCalendar or Google Calendar, requires just as much time and diligence to set up, but can feel more user-friendly for some students. Your child can readily flip from month to month, enabling her to conveniently set goals all the way through the end of the year. Students using electronic calendars can follow the same process as those using paper calendars, applying backward design and color-coding methods to keep all goals organized and clear. While creating goals electronically, students can take advantage of “description” options, which provide more space than a traditional calendar to record details about each calendar item. Descriptions are best used to make goals “SMART,” that is: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Electronic calendars also, frequently, have an option to send email reminders, and they can be accessed from nearly anywhere on any device. Although your child cannot post an electronic calendar in visible places, they can use other reminder methods to inspire their work.

Applications: Some new applications for smartphones and other devices provide students with an interactive platform, much like an assignment notebook, that can work nicely as a test calendar or testing to-do list. If your child prefers apps, try out an application like “Due” for Apple products or “Evernote” for Android. These platforms allow students to create virtual daily to-do lists that send reminders of tasks to your child’s phone or computer, and can even be activated at certain times or locations. For example, your child could set a reminder to stay after school for a study session that will only activate at the end of that school day. Apps like Evernote and Due require fairly constant upkeep to be truly useful, but when used for just one purpose, like testing, can be a focused and supportive way to plan ahead.

Why Test Calendars are Valuable

Test calendars, and calendars in general, are important for students to use because they enable strong planning and organization skills throughout the study process. Having separate calendars for different types of assignments can be useful for students looking to increase focus on one particular component of their academic life. In the fall, when school is just starting, a calendar to remind students of their newly minted schedule can be an appropriate tool; meanwhile, in the winter, when holidays and mid-terms approach, a calendar that focuses on balancing work and play can be more productive. Using different types of calendars throughout the year, with different focal points, teaches children to prioritize what is most important at that time and place. Test calendars, in particular, teach students that test grades bolster their final grades and ongoing studying can produce desirable results.