Around the third or fourth week of the semester, most students encounter the first exam in their courses. Although many university level courses have a midterm/final model of assessment with some quizzes in between, several of the common courses for first and second year students have a three or four exam model, with a cumulative exam at the end of the term. These classes, notably entry-level mathematics, chemistry, and physics, have the first exam around the end of the first month of the semester. As a parent, this means that by the end of the first months of the semester, you will hear about the First Exam of the Semester.
You can imagine the ominous music, the darkening of the lights, and the flickering of shadows. You can hear the anxiety in your student’s voice, see the frenzied ‘omg test 2morrow!!1!’ status updates, and reply to the hurried texts of ‘cant talk now, going 2 class’ that happen around this time of the semester. Naturally, you want to help your student and encourage the very best effort. At the same time, there are certain things that you can do and say that create a positive environment to help your student succeed while placing the responsibility for that success firmly upon your student.
1. Communicate with your student. Many students speak with their parents every day, or every other day. Thanks to cell phones, text messaging, and the variety of social networks, university students tell their parents about upcoming exams the day they are scheduled. When you speak with your student, ask about upcoming exams and projects. Inquire politely and ask if your student has put the exam on a calendar or made a reminder via an electronic planner.
2. Encourage your student to be proactive about the exam. Gone are the days of the up-all-night study session. There is no glory to be gained and no prize to be earned for being the groggiest, most sleep-deprived, zombie-apparent undergraduate on the campus. Regardless of your own collegiate tales of 3AM study sessions, talk to your student about reviewing for exams early and often. Refer them to this blog’s posts regarding peer tutoring and exams. Encourage your student to speak with the professor or graduate student assistant before the exam. Above all, remind your student that attending class and keeping up with the assignments is one of the best ways to prepare for the exam.
3. Follow up after the exam. This means asking the proverbial “how did you do on the test” question when the exam is finished, but it also means following up with the student to make sure that the exam has been returned. If the student did well, then remind the student of their prepatory techniques that led them to success. If the student did not do as well as expected, help the student examine the reasons for the grade. Would peer tutoring make a difference? Is the grade in dispute and should the student make an appointment with the professor? Could performance be attributed to test anxiety, and could the student benefit from meeting with a counselor at CAPS? In every one of these cases, encourage the student to act, and maintain communication to gauge the outcome of the student’s actions.
Above all, make sure that your student is using all resources available. Good sleeping habits, healthy diet, and moderate exercise are all beneficial to academic preparation. Those are the sorts of reminders that you can supply, no matter how old your student is or what exams are scheduled.
Next time, we’ll discuss why those folks at Student Affairs want your student to do more than just study, why it is so beneficial to the student experience, and how you can encourage your student to become a well-rounded member of the campus community.