How Can I Help My Student Study For Tests?

By: Debra Eckerman Pitton, Ph.D. and Kelly Quinn

[Part of the "Q & A for Parents of Middle School Students" series]

Just like asking questions, studying for tests is not something everyone can figure out on their own. Some students find ways that help themselves prepare, but others need suggestions and ideas for studying. Many students find that particular kinds of tests are easier for them than others. When students understand their own strengths and where they struggle in terms of test taking, they can prepare more effectively. Learning how to learn is important and techniques such as these may be helpful:

  1. Review the content from his/her classes frequently. Ask your student to tell you about what they are learning in their own words.

  2. Help them see the value of the content. Discuss the applications, purpose and reasons for learning the concepts with your student and let them know that the learning is important not just the test score.

  3. Have your student ask the teacher what the expectations are for the test. I does the student no good to study information that will not be on the test! Middle school students need to see the impact of their own effort on their academic success. So while you will want to help them try a variety of ways of studying, and support their efforts, you need to let them find the method of studying that helps them remember and use what they are learning.

For test preparation, have your student . . .

  1. Review notes and make a study sheet.

  2. Have another person quiz them on information (this is where the phone, text messaging or internet can help as a couple of friends can quiz each other using this technology.)

  3. Go back and read the summaries of the key material in the textbook.

  4. For map tests, get a blank copy of the map and practice filling in the information.

  5. For math tests, take a few sample problems (if possible use the problems that have the answers are in the back of the book), and see if they can correctly solve them correctly.

  6. Flashcards- best for memorizing definitions or key terms.

  7. Make pneumonic devices to remember pieces of information or lists. Think of things that will trigger the information. (i.e. Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally for the order of algebra rules- parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction). Make up your own.

  8. Review the material in a variety of ways: read it, write it, and speak/hear it, draw images that help them remember

  9. Practice using the information . . . have them explain the process, describe the historical situation, or write out ideas that might be similar to test questions

Start studying two nights ahead of time this avoids feeling overwhelmed later and allows for more time to process and practice what they are learning.


Davidson, Jeff. (1999). The complete idiot's guide to managing your time, 2nd edition. New York: MacMillan.

Ramsey, R. (2000). 501 ways to boost your child's success in school. Lincolnwood, IL: McGraw-Hill.

Weir, K. (2002). A parent's guide to school projects, papers, and presentations. Los Angeles, CA: Mars Publishing.

Debra Eckerman Pitton, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Middle Level Education at Gustaus Adolphus College in St. Peter , MN and consults with school districts across the country on issues of mentoring and middle school education.

Kelly Quinn is a senior education major at Gustaus Adolphus College and will be graduating in May, 2005 with an elementary and middle school teaching license.

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