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The Ultimate Test Prep Guide – Ace Any Exam

This workbook is the best guide to meeting your academic goals for tests, midterm exams, and final exams. Many students have found success with using these strategies! This book contains information that will help you before and during your exams. You will learn how to prepare for any test in a way that suits you as well as combat test anxiety. You will succeed! You can do it!

test prep guide title page

Today’s educational system is becoming increasingly competitive for students, as educational institutions are being required to increase their standards. This is causing a stress epidemic amongst students. They must learn as much as they can, and learn it effectively. As someone who works closely with teens I see this the intense pressure students are under. Unfortunately, in school there is no stress management class and students are forced to “deal” with these overwhelming feelings of anxiety.

I created this book so students can achieve the grades they want on major tests with less stress and more success; thus helping them reach their academic goals. With this book I hope you are able to learn how to manage the stress that comes with exams and effectively study in a way that suits your learning style.

test prep guide table contents

Want this workbook so you can get the grade you want? Contact me at (904) 487-8269 or email me at hello@studentfutures.org for more information. Workbooks are just $15. Need some help preparing for exams? I can walk you through every step of the way. We can set up a session and make a plan for you to achieve your goals.

mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

 

Using the 5 Dimensions of Learning to Achieve Your Goals

 

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/83633410@N07/

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/83633410@N07/

Everyone learns differently. In schools everyone is taught the same way, so most people think that the ways they learned in school are the only ways to learn! Actually, there are many, many different ways a person can learn. For example, some people need to move in order to learn and others need to doodle. When a student is able to understand how they learn best they can be successful in middle school, high school, college, and beyond. At Student Futures I help students analyze the 5 dimensions of learning and how they can use each to achieve their goals. The student completes a small online assessment, which we use to look at how they can use their strengths to their advantage and how they can improve their weaknesses.

5 dimensions of learning

POWER TRAITS

The ways you learn and work best make up your Power Traits for Life! There are 5 Power Traits or dispositions: Performing, Producing, Inventing, Relating/ Inspiring, and Thinking/ Creating. Most people have a Primary and a Secondary Disposition —their two highest scores. However, since everyone is different, the combination of scores is different for everyone. Your power traits can be used to help you: learn, study, memorize, communicate, organize, manage your time, get clearer about your interests, passions, and career possibilities. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to score. There are no scores that are “better” or “worse” than someone else’s scores. Whatever your scores are, they are your scores; they are a picture of you! Knowing your Disposition will help you understand what your overall learning and working strengths are so that you can choose materials and activities that will help you achieve your goals.

MODALITY

Your Modality strengths determine how you best process incoming information whether it be visually, Listening, or hands on. Reading, watching movies, sketching, writing, listening, doing something are examples of how we process information. It is very important to get to know your Modality strengths so you can learn how to use them to your best advantage, you will find that learning new information, memorizing, and even doing assignments will become so much easier. You will learn more, better, and faster, because you will be using materials and techniques that work for you!

ENVIRONMENT

Third dimension is your Environment which is everything that surrounds you and can affect your learning and working time positively or negatively. Some people are more affected by certain aspects of the environment than other people. For example, some people have a really hard time concentrating when it is cold, others have trouble when it is hot, and others are not bothered at all by the temperature. Some people can work in their room on the floor and others feel more comfortable at a desk. Some people like to work with music and some can’t concentrate.

INTERESTS

Your Interests, the fourth dimension of learning, are your greatest motivators! What do you love? You do your best learning when you are interested in and excited about what you are learning. The more you can integrate your interests and passions into your schoolwork, the better you will do!

TALENTS

The last dimension is Your Talents, which are the natural abilities that you were born with. Often, a person’s Talents point to career opportunities. However, you might not be interested in pursuing a Talent as a career. On the other hand, you might have a Talent that you would love to pursue, but people have discouraged you. Whether you are interested in pursuing a Talent or not, you can learn to put it to good use, to make your learning and working easier and more efficient.

Want to take the assessment and learn more about how you learn and can achieve your goals? Send me an email at hello@studentfutures.org

mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“

 

 

 

Motivating Students at the End of the School Year

 

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The End is Near

Don’t stress. This is an exciting time! The school year/ semester is winding down. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You are so much closer to achieving your goals. Think about the following when approaching 4th quarter and the end of the school year.

What have you accomplished this school year?
What challenge have come your way and how did you deal with them?
What challenges do you expect in 4th quarter and how will you address them?
What action steps do you need to take to achieve your goals?

How will you stay motivated? What will your reward be at the end of the school year?

 

Melanie Black of Student Futures is a certified academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at Melanie@studentfutures.org or (904) 487-8269.

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2015/03/30/12/37/tunnel-698518_960_720.jpg

 

Final Exam Preparation Tips for Students

 

cat finalsStart preparing now!

Finals are a time when you get to show off. Whether it’s an exam or presentation this is your chance to display how far you’ve come in a particular subject, how much you’ve learned.  Show your teachers and professors how awesome you are. What do you want to do with what you’ve learned this year or semester? What will your reward be after final exams are completed? How will you celebrate? The reward is super important to have in mind while studying and completing final exams.

 

 

 Students:

Create a study schedule at least 2 weeks or more in advance for finals. Your plan should state what subjects you are studying when and for how long, as well as noting specific study strategies you will use. Just saying you will study or review a chapter is not specific enough. The best way to retain info is to actively study the information, not just read over it. For help read my post on studying and the brain.

When you are making your plan  think about how much time you want to put aside each night for studying? For example, if it is 2 hours then, you need to decide what you want to study in those two hours each night. It could be 1 hour of math and then 1 hour of English.  Depending on how many subjects you have to study for the next night you may spend your two hours studying science and history. The first week you will probably study each subject more than once for about an hour at a time. At the beginning of the second week those hour-long segments should be shortened to 30-45 minutes. Towards the end of the second week the 30-45 min. should be shortened again. When you are a couple of days away from finals there should be NO CRAMMING because you have utilized what’s called the “Curve of Forgetting,” where you study a little bit at a time on a consistent basis. This is the BEST STUDY METHOD!  Write out your plan and post it where you can see it everyday. You might even want to utilize your smart phone to set reminders. Also, see my post about Test Taking: Tips, Strategies, & How to Reduce Anxiety. Lots of helpful stuff!

Parents:

Here’s how you can help your student with the stresses and anxiety brought about by final exams. Be positive and a good listener. Sometimes students don’t need you to tell them what to do. They just need someone to listen and empathize. Purchase one of our Finals Survival Kits or put together your own. They will be so grateful to you for caring.

Photo Credit: https://vulcanvillage.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/final-exams-yes1.png

Melanie Black of Student Futures is a certified academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at Melanie@studentfutures.org or (904) 487-8269.

 

Photo Credit: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/e6/75/69/e675697a7d99100ee7f1e7c6e2b6551b.jpg

Photo Credit: https://vulcanvillage.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/final-exams-yes1.png

 

Brain Food to Help Students Study

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I am currently working on another big project for Student Futures. For lunch I decided I needed some brain food to help me stay focused. I had a craving for nut butter and strawberries so I made myself a delicious sandwich with whole grain bread, freshly sliced strawberries, almond butter, and honey. I should add that this sandwich is just as yummy if you switch the berries for apple slices. Of course there was dessert! I had a piece of Dove almond dark chocolate. Choosing the right foods for your meals and snacks is super important when studying and working.

 

 

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You are what you eat. What you eat affects how you think and feel.

University of Rochester Department of Chemistry researcher Joshua Geiger says that fruit provides the best energy for evening study periods between 7:45 and 9:45 p.m. However, while your brain requires glucose to function, sugary foods, processed carbohydrates and soft drinks can lead to blood sugar spikes followed by drops that can cause fatigue and food cravings and leave you unable to focus. In particular, avoid eating sweets and sugary foods at night, or when you haven’t eaten regularly, because these foods are digested more rapidly on an empty stomach.

 

Top Brain Foods to Help Students StudyIMG_4046

Whole Grains: Eating whole grain foods can enhance memory function and enable you to get better grades. Give yourself an energy boost while studying by chowing down on whole grain breads, crackers, and pasta.

Dark Chocolate: According to WebMD “Dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties, contains several natural stimulants, including caffeine, which enhance focus and concentration, and stimulates the production of endorphins, which helps improve mood.” However, this is one brain food where less is better for you. A small piece of dark chocolate is all you need.

Berries: Next time you are studying for a test or exam eat a handful of berries. The have significant health effects directly related to brain function. Not only do these colorful and flavorful snacks act as antioxidants, but they also reduce levels of toxins in your bloodstream, improving blood flow to the brain, and enhancing brain activity.

IMG_4049Nuts: Go nuts! Nuts like walnuts, almonds, and pistachios contain vitamin E and fatty acids that help your brain perform at its best. Nuts are also a good source of iron which provides oxygen to the brain, increasing making you more mentally alert and able to retain information. They make for a great energy boost when needed too.

 

 

Fish: Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for brain development. The fatty acids in fish help us focus more and study better.

Apples: The peel of the apple is made up of an antioxidant called quercetin that heightens memory function, which makes an apple a great study snack.

Beans: The brain needs glucose for to keep going. Beans stabilize blood sugar levels. Beans give you the energy you need to keep going while studying for those final exams. Personally, I love carrots and hummus. Hummus is made of garbanzo beans. Beans also contain folic acid which helps with retention.

BON APPETIT! 

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 Melanie Black of Student Futures is a certified academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at Melanie@studentfutures.org or (904) 487-8269.

Should Students Have to Take Advanced Math?

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Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/acidwashphotography/

 

Yesterday, I read an article from NPR titled, “Let’s Stop Requiring Advanced Math, A New Book Argues.” I was aggravated when I read the article because I disagreed with the ideas mentioned from the book, “The Math Myth: And Other STEM Delusions” by Andrew Hacker, a political science professor.

“Hacker’s central argument is that advanced mathematics requirements, like algebra, trigonometry and calculus, are “a harsh and senseless hurdle” keeping far too many Americans from completing their educations and leading productive lives.I don’t think the author is calling to “dumb it down.” He’s calling to make the interpretation of numbers and math easier for everyone, which in the long run, will make all of us smarter.” NPR

My Relationship History with Math

As a college and university student I struggled with math. Math courses were the most challenging. I would spend 2-3 hours sitting in Starbucks doing practice problems to prepare for tests and exams. I failed the math portion of a standardized test in college. I took Saturday classes that were three hours long so I could retake the test and pass, which I did. This does not mean I hate math. I am proud to say that statistics, algebra, and geometry made me stronger and increased my critical thinking skills.

Unfortunately, it appears that math is more feared or revered than understood. I used to have the mindset that I just wasn’t a “math person,” or “I can’t do math.” Today, I have a different attitude and encourage my students not to have the negative mindset I once had with any subject. I believe we can learn anything. Math may take more practice and effort for some than others. Similarly, writing an essay may come more naturally to some people than others. We are all very different and learn differently. We have different strengths and weaknesses. Just because we are weak in a subject does not mean we give up and think we can’t do it.

Should Students be Required to Take Advanced Math Courses?

I think so. I disagree with Hacker. He argues that a large percentage of people drop out of high school and college. However, people drop out for so many other reasons as well. It seems like he is arguing that universities should cater more to the average rather than pursuing excellence. What argument do we have then when someone asks why the average person should learn Shakespeare or history or even political science?

When I was in 8th grade I was required to read “The Giver.” I still have my copy from 8th grade as this book was incredibly inspiring to me and is one of my favorite books of all time. I read the book, completed the required assignment, and never needed to use it again. Was this a waste of my time?

“When you were a toddler, developing hand-eye coordination and a basic understanding of balance you probably played with blocks and built towers? When was the last time you stacked up a bunch of blocks? Probably years ago. When do you expect to do it again? Probably never. Does that mean the time you spent learning to do it was wasted? Not at all. You kept the basic skills–which had nothing at all to do with blocks, per se–and left the toys behind.” – Dr. Math

It’s not about the type of math class. I believe it is more about the teacher and how the content is presented. Perhaps we need to look at the curriculum and how it is taught rather than not teaching it at all. If I have an interest in biology, but have a teacher who is not engaging then, chances are my interest in biology will decline. The same goes for any type of math or any subject. Personally, I had no interest in history until I got to college and had a professor who taught the subject in a way that provoked my interest. I see this in students all the time. They are not interested in the subject because of how it is taught or the non-engaging assignments they have to do.

Who is Hacker to say what is worth learning for the average student? One thing I have learned is everything is worth learning. You never know what you will get out of school and your experiences. You can’t predict when you’re going to find a correlation between different concepts.

Melanie Black of Student Futures is a certified academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at Melanie@studentfutures.org or (904) 487-8269.

Studying and The Brain

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Photo Credit: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/B2hRq1JnBGk/maxresdefault.jpg

What do teachers and students mean when they say review or study?

In my conversations with students they say they are going to study or review for a test. What does that mean though? Teachers will tell students to study or review a particular chapter or section before a test. However, students are not taught how to study or review material. Most students read over the textbook or their notes again and don’t interact with the material. In order for our brains to truly learn and retain the material we need to do something with what we have read.

First, we encode information by reading. The information goes into our brains and we become familiar with the material. Then, we need to retrieve the information to use it.  We have to get it out. In psychology this is referred to as the “retrieval effect.” “The more things you have it (information) connected to, the easier it is to pull it out, because you have lots of different ideas that can lead you to that particular material,” Mark McDaniel, a Professor of Psychology at Washington University. “And the things you retrieve get more accessible later on, and the things you don’t retrieve get pushed into the background and become harder to retrieve next time.” Hence, the reason why students need various strategies and quizzable tools when preparing for tests. Students need to quiz themselves before the teacher does to see how much they know and reflect on how to retrieve the information in the future.

Tips to help students successfully “retrieve” information for tests:

  1. Stop using the words, study and review. Be specific! How will you study or review for a test? For example, I am going to make flashcards for Spanish class, or I am going to quiz myself for my math test by completing practice questions.
  2. Form or join a study group where you can quiz your friend(s). Two heads are better than one! In your group you could each make up 5 test questions and exchange and discuss them.
  3. Take notes in a format where you can quiz yourself later. Cornell Notesare great or write the term on one line and then below it write the definition. This way you can fold your paper up and slowly bring it down as you quiz yourself.
  4. Read your notes out loud. It might even be helpful to record yourself.
  5. Use mnemonic devices to help make the information stick. It can be a song, rhyme, acronym, image, or a phrase that helps you remember the material.
  6. Create and answer your own quiz using helpful websites like Quizlet orGoConqr.
  7. Use your senses: smell, touch, hear, see.  The more senses you use when learning material the more likely you are to remember it.
  8. Have a whiteboard at home? They are great to use when quizzing yourself or getting information “out.” Mind maps are fun to draw and help with the retrieval process.
  9. Relate the information to something you already know, something in real life.
  10. Self-questioning is a helpful habit to form! It will increase your comprehension. The following questions are great to ask yourself when checking for understanding.

How were ___ and ___ the same?  Different?
What do you think would happen if___?
What do you think caused ___ to happen?
What other solution can you think of for the problem of ___?
What might have prevented the problem of ____ from happening?
What is important about ______?  

**For more tips on how to ace tests read my post, Test Taking Tips: Strategies on How to Reduce Test Anxiety

Melanie Black of Student Futures is a certified academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at Melanie@studentfutures.org or (904) 487-8269.

Student Planner for School

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The Student Futures planner for students is ready for purchase!

Academic Coach, Melanie Black is dedicated to helping students with time management. she has created a planner with the whole student in mind. The 6 month planner contains a wheel of life as well as a mission statement activity so students can build a foundation for success. It has a standard monthly layout, a customizable weekly layout, and weekly reflection pages that help students stay on track with their goals and keep track of their grades. Other features include list pages, inspire me pages, as well as 25 pages for notes. The 8.5 x 5.5 planner comes in a customizable 3 ring mini binder which has two pockets on the inside as well as two pockets on the outside. The Student Planner is $20

Mission StatementWheel of LifeStudent Sample Weekly LayoutStudent Reflection cropped

Parents, we didn’t forget about you!

We created a planner for you too! The parent planner is filled with great features to help you not lose your mind. This planner is similar to the student planner except the wheel of life is tailored to adults and the weekly reflection pages are designed differently, in a way that helps you evaluate your week and keep track of your goals. Plus, each week this planner contains a meal planner and shopping list. Personally, I have started off the year using this planner and can’t live without it! The Parent Planner is $22. For $20 we also have a Go Getter Planner which is the same as the Parent Planner except it does not contain a meal plan and shopping list.

Monthly Layout 2Weekly LayoutMeal PlanReflection Page Mom

Melanie Black of Student Futures is a certified academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at Melanie@studentfutures.org or (904) 487-8269.

 

 

Students and Time Management

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In my experience as an academic coach time management is one of the biggest issues for students. Rightfully so, considering it is is not taught in school. Most of the time students have to figure out how to manage their course load, athletics, community involvement, etc. on their own. Sometimes assignments don’t get done or supplies are forgotten at school. Consequently, students’ grades drop. Then, their grades are not a true representation of their academic ability. Unfortunately, all of this causes anxiety in students.  Ahhhhhh!

It is important that students have a way to see time. Are there clocks in the house?  One place I like having a clock is the bathroom. Yes! The bathroom. I need to be conscious and mindful of the time when I am getting ready. Think about where else a clock would be useful. Perhaps the bedroom, living room, etc.

Before creating a time management system for students I discuss with them if they prefer to use a digital system or paper system, or both. Personally, I use both. It is important to let students choose. I don’t believe there is one way to do something. With time management there are so many different strategies. We all learn differently and have different personalities. We have to find what is best for us. Explore some idea through our Pinterest Time Management Board.

Next, it is helpful to fill out a time map with how you spend your time. I have students write their classes, sports practices, club meetings, personal commitments, etc. This helps them see time in a way that they don’t normally. The time map is especially useful when creating a plan for studying for finals. I love the time time map because it gives you a sense of time and one can see where their time goes. The time map can be completed on paper or on the computer.

When I am trying to analyze a student’s current time management system I ask them what they are currently doing. Next, I ask them what is working with that current system. Then, I ask what is not working. I ask them what they want to change. This gives us a foundation for creating a time management system.

Personally, I found that a standard planner, one you buy at office depot, was not working for me. The structure was not suitable. A year ago a friend of mine introduced me to the Bullet Journal. It was the best Christmas gift! She gave me a few mole skin notebooks and sent me to the Bullet Journal website. This totally changed my life. For the past year I have spent time creating and using various formats to manage time each week. I finally found one that worked for me. Sometimes when I work with students on time management I give them a blank piece of paper and ask them to draw a structure that they think would work for them.

I have great news! I have designed a planner specifically with the whole student in mind and it is ready for purchase! It great for students in high school or college who are looking for a time management system. to Click HERE to learn more. Parents, I didn’t forget about you either. Click HERE to learn more about the Parent Planner.

Melanie Black of Student Futures is a certified academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at Melanie@studentfutures.org or (904) 487-8269.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2015/09/19/08/39/clock-946934_960_720.jpg

 

 

 

Study Strategies to Help Students Over the Holidays

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spree2010/

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spree2010/

While the holidays are a time for fun and relaxing with family and friends it can also be stressful for students. It can be hard to manage social obligations with friends and family as well as find time to study. Even when there is a good plan in place there can be distractions or activities that will conflict with their study schedule, causing anxiety.  It is important to cherish and enjoy the special time with family and friends, but it’s important to manage to balance a schedule between fun and studying.

Tips to help students stay focused and stress-free over the break

Plan ahead. – One of the best things you can do is let family and friends know that you’re going to be busy studying and might not be available. Additionally, before you create your study plan, anticipate the distractions that may occur or the obligations you might have. Then, choose what you can realistically do and not do. If you are going out of town be sure and bring all your school stuff with you such as textbooks, laptop, etc. You never know when you will find time to do something.

It’s ok to say NO. – It’s ok to decline an invitation to a party, or outing, and focus on academics. This may mean you may miss out on some fun activities, but the ones you do take part in will be enjoyed guilt-free, knowing that your studies are on the right track.

Manage your time. – Fill out a calendar, starting with the days you know you will be spending with family and friends. Then, decide what days and times will be suitable for studying. Next, fill in what subject you will study on which day. Also, next to the subject write the amount of time you will spend studying that subject.  It might be a good idea to study early in the morning before family wakes up.  It is the quietist time of the day and you may be able to get a lot accomplished and then have the rest of your day to hang out with friends and family.

Study space – With all that is going on it might be hard to find the right study environment. Decide on a good place to study. Make it somewhere where you won’t be distracted and can get your work done.

Accountability and rewards – Share your schedule with a friend or family member or tell them what you need to accomplish by the end of the day. Get them to ask you about it so you can demonstrate that you did what you said you’d do.  Don’t forget to reward yourself! Tell your accountability person about your reward.

Don’t go at it alone! – If you are staying in town and so are some of your classmates then, invite them to study with you. Two heads are better than one! Form a study group to make things les stressful. If you are going out of town then use your family and friends as a resource. Ask them questions! They may be able to help you a lot with your studies.

Breath and remember your goals – It will be hard to focus at times and you may start to feel your blood pressure rise, but remember your why. Remember your goals. Remember your values. Remember why it is important to you to succeed. Take a few deep breaths and move forward.

What if it doesn’t work out? – It’s important to be optimistic, but don’t be surprised if you are not able to follow your schedule. Just do the best you can and enjoy spending time with family and friends. Sometimes it’s best to just join in the fun. Genuine breaks are necessary after all and if you think you need one, take it. It is better to have a refreshed mind.

Melanie Black of Student Futures is a certified academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at Melanie@studentfutures.org or (904) 487-8269.