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January 19, 2015
Why Is My Intelligent and Hardworking Child Struggling in School?
February 18, 2016

How to Study Smarter, Not Harder

student frustrated studying for examWe recently received a question from a parent about helping her son improve his fluctuating test grades. Here’s what the parent had to say.

Question: I am writing to you about my son Kyle, a sophomore.  Kyle is a bright student who does well on homework but struggles with tests.  He is often on the verge of an A in a class, but his test grades (like a final exam or a big unit test) pushes his final grade into the B territory.  Kyle seems to do fine with quizzes, but whenever he is tested on a long chapter or a unit, he doesn’t do well.

The funny thing is his test grades fluctuate – he does well on one test then does poorly on another.  When we ask Kyle what happened, he doesn’t seem to know.  From what my husband and I can see, Kyle spends time studying, but his test grades don’t consistently show it.  He is becoming increasingly frustrated because he’s trying so hard.  I’d love to know your thoughts on how we can help him!

Studying Smarter, Not Harder

Answer: It’s so nice to hear about a student who is trying so hard and wants to do well.  We definitely want to see him reap the benefits of that hard work!  There are a few different things that could be going on here, but I’m guessing that Kyle’s trouble comes down to how he’s studying.  It’s very likely that he doesn’t need to study harder than he is now (we certainly don’t want him losing sleep, after all!) but that he needs to study smarter.

When we see students do well on quizzes and homework but not on big tests and finals, it is likely that they are reviewing material for quizzes but not really learning the material.  For example, Kyle is likely studying well just before each quiz that he takes, but he’s not studying in a way that is making the material stick long-term.  So, when he studies for a bigger test, the amount of information is overwhelming.  There’s too much to re-learn in one or two nights before a test, and as a result, he doesn’t do well on tests, and his grades suffer.

The Solution

The key to fixing this issue is to develop a short daily study habit.  If Kyle studies his U.S. History, for example, for just 5-10 minutes a day, every day, he can actually study fewer minutes than he would need to cram right before the tests and quizzes.  Most importantly, he’ll retain more information in the long run.  Getting a chance to learn, then forget and re-learn the information nightly actually makes information stick much better!

Facebook Ad 2 edited - Hinsdale Proctored Tests - 7.15.14To help Kyle learn to study nightly, a tutor would start off by doing what we call a “time study” to help Kyle figured out when he can fit this routine into his schedule while also completing his other homework and activities.  Making time for daily study seems intimidating at first, but having a real routine for homework and studying helps nightly studying become a regular habit.

Additionally, a tutor can help Kyle learn how to study.  He probably does really well on quizzes and tests when the material is inherently interesting or engaging to him, which can help explain his fluctuating grades.  Kyle likely struggles, though, when the information is less interesting.  Bright students typically memorize things very easily when they are interested but often don’t have effective strategies for memorizing things that are not.

Kyle will need to be taught to absorb all types of information through a combination of strategies.  For instance, he can be taught how to actively quiz himself, how to effectively cycle through his class material, and how to go beyond just “looking over” his notes when he’s studying.  He may also need to learn how to create notes that are more useful for studying.

In short, there are many executive functioning strategies that can help students like Kyle learn how to study so that they can retain information and improve their grades. Contact us to learn more about how our executive functioning program can help your child!