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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.“

 

Helping Students Track Their Own Progress

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Why should students monitor their own progress?

Often, teachers know how students are doing overall, but students themselves rarely know. Students who track their grades regularly, not just at midterms and finals, take ownership of their learning, and are more likely to persevere in the face of challenges and take steps to proactively meet their goals. Tracking their progress empowers students to be independent and successful, which will not only benefit them in school but in any future endeavor.

Benefits

When students track their own grades:

  • They take ownership of learning
  • They are intrinsically motivated
  • They perform better on high-stake tests
  • They learn how to track goals

What does it mean for students to track their own progress?

A student has to understand how they learn, and have the ability to articulate, create, or ask for the resources necessary to meet their learning needs. Students with these attributes take responsibility for and ownership of their learning by reflecting on successes and failures, and creating action steps to positively progress forward in reaching their goals.

When students track their progress, it means that they have set a goal and know how to measure where they are in the process of achieving it. Students regularly analyze and update their goals using concrete evidence—which can be anything. Students should reflect often on what is working and what’s not and figure out what they need to do to make progress with their goals.

How can parents help?

Having a simple non-judgmental conversation with your student is helpful. Ask them how satisfied they are with their grades. Ask them what’s working and what’s not. Then, discuss a plan on how to deal with what’s not working. Ask them what kind of help they might need to be successful. Making this a regular conversation is helpful.

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR OWN DOWNLOADABLE PROGRESS TRACKER!

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.“

What have you learned about yourself from a current challenge?

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Being a student in middle school, high school, or college comes with many challenges every day. They could be academic, social, emotional, etc. Think about a recent challenge you had and how you dealt with it. What did you learn about yourself? How do you want to deal with similar challenges in the future?

“When you go through life’s challenges, you have the choice to either fall apart and become a victim of the circumstances, or you can rise up high and above others.” — Mo Seetubtim

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.“

 

 

 

Words of Wisdom: Walt Disney

Disney words of wisdom

Disney words of wisdom

Worry means to feel or experience concern or anxiety. Students tend to worry a lot about their grades, appearance, and much more. Parents worry about their children, job, finances, and other things. Too much worry, anxiety, or stress can affect the way you feel and live your life. Have you ever been so worried about how you will do on an exam that you can’t remember all that you have studied and end up not getting the grade you wanted? Don’t worry. Be happy!

Keep things in perspective.

Most things we worry about already happened or are temporary. Most things are solvable. Ask yourself, “How can I solve this problem?” “What can I do about this?” 

Focus on the positive.

Ask yourself: “What did I learn from this?” 

What if?

 Suppose, just for a moment, you live in a world where fear and anxiety do not exist. What could you do now?

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.“

How to Make a Planner Work for You

Do you have a hard time using your planner? Is it too big? Too small? Not enough room to write?

In this video I share my story of how I created a planner that works for me. Every middle and high school, and college student are different and we all have different preferences when it comes to planner yet most planners have the same layout. In this video I give some simple tips for finding and creating a planner that works for you. It’s easy. I promise. Check it out!

 

Don’t have time to check out the video? No worries. Here’s the gist of it.

I have gone through several planners to get to the one I use now, which I am very happy with. First, I purchased a pretty faux leather planner from Office Depot for about $35. It was a beautiful turquoise, which is my favorite color, and had a weekly layout along with a monthly layout. As with a majority of planners the weekly layout was standard small rectangles for each day. One week spanned two pages. It was ok but I couldn’t fit everything I wanted in those rectangular spaces each day.

For Christmas one year my best friend sent me a couple of Moleskine notebooks with a sticky note on the front that read, “Go to bulletjournal.com” This was life changing! If you don’t know about bullet journaling check it out! For about 6 months I experimented with bullet journalling and various planner layouts that I created. Eventually after using the same layout for a few months I grew tired of drawing the my template in my notebook every week.

I decided it was time to create a template on the computer, one I could print out, one I didn’t have to draw each week. I went to YouTube and found a basic video tutorial for Adobe InDesign about how to create a planner page. Once again another life changing moment! So I created my template and printed it. I put into that old pretty turquoise planner binder from Office Depot. Great! So I have my customized template and a pretty cover. All is good, right?

So this binder was too small. Back to InDesign. I made my template bigger, 8.5×11. I bought a 1/2 inch white binder from Office Depot for less than $5 and printed my template. Perfecto! I also created a photo collage, which I printed and inserted on the front cover of my binder. Then, I created a sticker collage of positive messages and inserted that into the back cover. I love my planner!

What I learned about finding and creating suitable planners.

It’s not the cover or binder that you want to base your purchase on. It’s what’s inside the planner that you want to pay attention to. However, you shouldn’t completely ignore the pretty cover. A planner’s appearance should make you want to use it. I added photos and positive messages to mine because when I look at it makes me happy, it makes me want to open it up and write in it. Lastly, creating systems is a process that requires patience and time. Patience is a virtue!

Want to make a planner that works for you? Here’s my advice. 

  1. Take a blank piece of computer paper. Cut it to the size you want your planner to be.
  2. Take a pencil and draw what your ideal planner would look like. If you are talented you could even do it on the computer!
  3. Punch holes and put it into a binder that works for you.
  4. Make it fun. Buy some stickers, print some photos.

**Use it for one month. Then reflect and decide what works and what doesn’t. Edit your template, tweak your planner accordingly.

Does this sound like too much work? There are lots of different planner systems you can experiment with but it may cost you a pretty penny. Here are some that are popular.

HAPPY PLANNING!

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

 

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.

Creating a Study Environment for Succcess

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

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

A primary goal in educating youth is to make them lifelong learners. Students’ future success depends on how motivated they are to learn and develop new knowledge and ideas on their own. The foundation for these skills starts with study habits in and out of school. So much of our learning takes place outside of school.
The study environment needs to promote positive habits. We want students to think about the concepts they are learning, but we don’t want the environment to cause distractions from studying.

My study/work environment

When I was studying in college and university I rarely studied at home or the library. My go to place was Starbucks. I was able to sit there for 2-3 hours with my white mocha and study. It was a relaxing study environment for me, which also helped me be productive. However, if I was working on a midterm/ final paper or presentation I usually stayed home and worked on the computer. For some reason I felt more comfortable working at home when trying to do the bigger projects and papers.

Now, my home office is where I like to be productive. I have a craft desk with a drafting chair, which may sound odd considering I am not an architect, but that chair helps me keep good posture while working. All my office supplies are strategically placed for easy access. On my corkboard I have pictures of family, my running medals, as well as some cards I received with encouraging and loving words. All of which are reminders of how far I have come and great motivation to move forward.

Tips and Ideas for Creating a Study Environment Conducive to Productivity and Success

Location

Students have to think about where the best place is to study. It could be their room, outside on the porch with natural sunlight, at a public place, library, etc. Some students may prefer to study a certain subject in one place but study for another in a different place. When choosing a location consider how background noise affects studying. If studying in public, opt either for a quiet table in the corner or a spot right in the middle of it all, where there’s so much noise and buzz that you won’t get distracted by one conversation. And if all else fails, pick up and move away from distracting people when necessary.

Many students, especially those who are easily distracted or who have trouble keeping their attention focused, will find that it doesn’t take much noise to pull them away from their studying. Do you do better in silence, or are you the kind of student who thrives amid the buzz of background noise? Try a few settings, and pay attention to how each study session goes. Give the library a go one day, and see how that hushed environment works out. The next day, try a coffee shop or the park. Find a spot that’s comfortable, but not too comfortable, and make it your go-to study location.

Minimize Distractions

Students tend to be attached to smart phones constantly texting, and using social media. Students have developed the habit of checking these sources several times hourly. Those habits break into a their concentration during study, shifting their attention, and taking time and focus away from studying. This affects retention and the amount of time it takes to get work done.

To create a more effective work environment, create a distraction-free zone during work time. Clear off your desk so only the necessary study supplies are within reach. Keep the smart phones out of arm’s reach. Remove instant messaging from the computer and ban Facebook during study time. Self Control is a great app to block social media. Click HERE to read about six more apps for your PC or mobile device that will block social media distractions.

The Work Space

A student’s workspace should be set up so that they do not need to search each day for the supplies they need. If using a desk it should be set up the same way each day. If a student is studying at a communal table at home then they should have a nearby bin or tray with supplies where they can regularly find what they need without having to spend a lot of time thinking about how to prepare for studying.

Posture for Studying

It is common to see students writing briefly at a desk, then working from a laptop computer on the floor, and then lying down on the couch to read a book.

“It is hard to maintain the same level of concentration when lying on the floor or propped up in bed as when sitting at a desk. The body’s habit when lying down is to relax and sleep. It is not helpful for students to have to fight that tendency when studying. In addition, lying down promotes passive reading. It is hard to take notes or type while lying down. So students who are lying down are playing a less active role in their learning than those who are sitting up.” Edutopia

Click HERE to read my post about how posture affects students and simple techniques for keeping good posture.

Music

A lot of us listen to music while we read, write, and research. But does music help or hurt studying? The answer depends on the individual. Personally, I am a huge advocate for using music while studying. Music is rhythm and rhythm is structure. Our brain can use that structure to get things done. When the music comes on it tells you it’s time to go. Eventually after listening to the playlist often one can develop a sense of time. For example, if I hear Taylor Swift I might realize I am 15 min. into my work. Then, when I hear the Beatles I know I am close to the end of my 30 min work session and it’s almost time for a break. The playlist strategy can help students gain a sense of time and motivate them as well.

The Clock

When studying, the clock can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Keeping an eye on the time can give you a sense of urgency, or it can be that thing you keep glancing at, distracting you from your work.

Use the clock to your advantage. Set time-related goals: Before you start an assignment or task, decide what time you plan to finish. Use the clock to keep you moving forward. The pomodoro app is a great way to help students stay on task as well as take much needed breaks in between.

Other People

Study groups or buddies can be very helpful, or very frustrating. If you like to study in groups, come prepared. Show up with a clear agenda of what you want to accomplish, questions you want to discuss, help you might need. Avoid wasting time with chatting or without a clear direction for your study group.

Feng Shui and Motivation

Take some time to create a clean, organized, neat workspace for studying, and then make every effort to keep it that way. Remember that a cluttered learning environment clutters the mind.

When organizing your study area consider your motivators for success. If you have an award/ medal you have earned or certificate you are proud of hang it up and make it visible. Past successes motivate us to do well. If you have a college or university in mind post a picture or brochure related to that school to remind you of your long term goal, your why.

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

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

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.