Many students consider peer tutoring as a vital step in preparing for an exam. At Florida Tech’s Academic Support Center, we see a sizable increase in the number of students requesting peer tutors in the days before mathematics exams. Students will often request an appointment with a tutor without understanding what peer tutoring can do and how they should specifically prepare for a pre-exam tutoring session.
Luckily, the pre-exam session is one of the easiest peer tutoring sessions for students to prepare. First, there is little admission of “I need help, I don’t know any of this,” as compared to a general tutoring session. The pre-exam tutoring session can follow a review sheet, end-of-chapter questions, or old quizzes. Second, the pre-exam session is a working session rather than a “show and tell” session. The pre-exam session with a peer tutor allows the student to work alongside the peer tutor and take an active role in the session. Third, the pre-exam session doesn’t need to be a one-on-one appointment. It’s very common for students to do exam reviews in groups with the peer tutor facilitating the review. Finally, the pre-exam session has a definite goal – to review for the exam! It’s easy to tell when the session is done.
To prepare for the pre-exam peer tutoring session, set the appointment for at least two days before the exam. Don’t wait until the day before the exam, in case you realize that you need more help or time to review difficult concepts. If you’re intimidated by the idea of working one-on-one with a peer tutor, ask a friend to come with you and review together. Working in groups can make learning easier and more dynamic, as long as you can stay on task. Choose a time of day when you know that you can work efficiently.
Be prepared to work during the review session. Work out problems in a whiteboard, draw diagrams, write outlines, review flashcards. A peer review session isn’t a passive event where you get to watch someone demonstrate knowledge, it’s an hour where you get to work with someone to improve your ability to demonstrate your knowledge.
Use the peer tutoring session to note those areas that you need to further review on your own. After working with the tutor, you may have additional questions to take to the professor or your own study group. This is one of the main reasons that we advocate setting the appointment more than a day in advance of the exam; often, the peer tutoring session highlights those areas where you need more assistance. If you need more assistance, follow up by setting another appointment the day before the exam, or even the morning of the exam if the class is in the afternoon. You may not use the entire hour, but you can have the last few questions answered and concepts reviewed before going into the exam.
If you realize that you have too much material to review for the exam, you might consider making peer tutoring part of your weekly study repertoire. Peer review isn’t just for before the major exams, but it can be the first step to making peer tutoring part of your plan for academic success.