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Help your student improve their test scores!

Part of my work as a tutor is helping my students improve their grades by carefully analyzing their tests. I really encourage everybody to sit down with their students, go over tests together and really try to understand what the mistakes were, and find patterns. You will then be able to provide feedback and tips or tricks to solve the specific issue. You will help your student do better, and in the process strengthen your relationship with your student.

It's so important to learn from bad grades. At the risk of sounding cliché, every bad grade is an opportunity to learn. What is the student doing incorrectly?


- is he misreading the questions?


- is he only answering part of the questions?


- did he not know the information?


- did he know the information and forget it that morning?


- is the student rushing?


- or is he running out of time?


For math and science:

- is he making mechanical errors?


- or is he using the wrong formula?



Today I want to give you tips and tricks for each of these specific issues.



#1 - your student is misreading questions, or not answering the whole question.


Some students have a hard time determining what the question is asking. "There are so many words, how do you know which one is important?" For these students, I recommend underlining the important word(s) in the question statements, or restating the question in their own words.


Recently, I was helping a student through her homework when this question came up: "What type is quadrilateral is ABCD?" In this question, a student might think "quadrilateral" is the important word. It's a complicated math word, they recently learn about quadrilaterals in class, it must be important. But "type" is actually the important word here. The student must determine what type of quadrilateral they have in front of them. My student answered "yes, ABCD is a quadrilateral." After we discussed which word was most important in this particular question, "quadrilateral" or "type", my student realized her error and correctly answered the question.


Secondly, if your student answers only part of the question, have them underline each part of the questions, as a reminder that there are multiple parts. Sometimes a student will be so focused on the first part of the question they forget all about the second part. Underlining the two different parts can prevent that mishap.



#2 - your student doesn't know the information.


If your student is getting poor grades because she simply didn't know the information she needed, she might be reviewing the wrong information.

Make sure your student has a study guide when studying for their upcoming tests. I have some additional tips and tricks here.



#3 - your student knew the information but forgot it the next day.


Working memory is a fascinating thing! It works (and fails) in ways we don't yet understand. If your student is having a hard time retaining the information they need, my recommendation is mnemonic devices. The sillier, the better! I have the worst memory; I still use "King Henry Died Suddenly Drinking Chocolate Milk" to remember the metric system. To this day! I'm an engineer and have been tutoring math and science for years and I still say it under my breath every time! (Don't tell my students!)


Another tip is to start studying multiple days prior to the test. Sleep is a super important factor to memory, so studying for multiple days before a test can really improve recall.



#4 - your student is rushing through tests.


Completing a test within the time limit can be stressful for a lot of students. This can cause them to rush and make unnecessary mechanical errors.


I recently had a student who was failing his math tests. His homework grade looked good, but all his tests grade were below 70. We sat down together and looked over his latest test. There were a lot of mechanical errors, and a couple of times he used the wrong formula. We started talking about the test and he told me he was worried about running out of time, so he tried to move through the test quickly, and then used the time left over at the end to check his work. My recommendation to him was to not worry so much about the time: it's better to do all of it right and miss the last few questions than to get to the last question but have errors throughout the test. We decided that on his next test he wouldn't worry too much about time, and would focus on each problem as he went, making sure he was doing them correctly. On his next test, he got an 84%! He didn’t have time to get to the last two questions, but everything else was correct!


This brings us to the next comment problem, students who run out of time. .



#5 - your student always runs out of time.


Some students are meticulous, doting all their “i”s and crossing all their “t”s. This is a wonderful trait, but it can be detremental during tests. These students often run out of time and lose a lot of points on unanswered questions.


How do we encourage these students to work a little faster, without causing them to rush and creating anxiety?

I like to encourage my students to trust themselves. I tell them "If an answer pops into your head, don't overthink it; trust yourself and avoid spending too much time doubting yourself."


Also, if they are struggling to answer a specific questions, tell them to skip it. No need to waste time trying to answer a question they don't know, skip it and come back to it later.



#6 - your student is making a lot of mechanical errors in math or science.


"Mechanical errors" are calculation errors due to inattention, when your student is working through a math problem and mindlessly calculates 2 x 6 as 8 instead of 12, for instance. They know 2 x 6 is 12, but in the heat of things made the mistake.


This is a hard problem to solve. In my experience, it is often due to students skipping steps and doing a lot of the work in their heads. I encourage them to not skip any steps, and try to right down as much of the work as possible. I realize it's tedeious, but in my experience, it prevents a lot of mechanical errors.



#7 - your student is using the wrong formulas.


Matching the right formula to a specific problem can be very challenging.

My tip for this is to study the concept and the formula at the same time, as a pair. For example, I would ask my student "What is kinetic energy? And what is the formula for kinetic energy?" or "What is the slopeof a line? And what is the formula for slope?"

By pairing the concept and the formula in your student's mind, she will have an easier time deploying the correct formula when solving each problem.



I hope some of these tips and tricks will help your student! And don't hesistate to contact us if you have any questions, or comment below! :)

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