By Erin Abbott, Director of the Learning Center
It’s that time of year again when peppermint mocha fills our cups, holiday tunes get stuck in our heads, and the wonder and joy of the exam season excites us. . . Wait, exams? At Foxcroft, December brings exciting events like our Christmas Pageant, “Christmas in Middleburg” Parade, Lessons and Carols, and various valuable community service opportunities. This is a busy — but beautiful — time of year. In the midst of this season, our students also hunker down in preparation for end-of-semester exams.
I had a New Girl exclaim, “Mrs. Abbott, I’m so stressed out about exams!” My reply was simple and calm: “Remember, you’ve already done much of the work. You’ve prepared for every quiz and test you’ve taken this semester and attended all your classes.” I caution our girls not to fall into the drama of cram sessions and all-nighters, and to refrain from buying into the idea that “I’m so stressed out” is a badge of honor and a motto of the high achiever.
We don’t need to fall into this trap of being victims of our educational or even personal obligations. We all have the option to choose resilience and healthy coping skills. As I shared with our Freshman Class this week, planning, preparation, positivity, and self-care are stronger than the stress monster.
When it comes to exams, I encourage our girls to use their planner and specifically map out what they need to do and when. Label the actual name of the class of the exam taken on a specific day. Our first exam is World Language on Monday, and if that is Spanish 1, be specific and write that down on your planner! Look at the review guide that each teacher has created for their exams. Coding each topic with a green dot (meaning “this topic is known and understood”), yellow dot (“this topic is somewhat understood”), or red dot (“OMG, I need my teacher!!!!”) is a good place to start assessing how much time is needed for each topic and subject.
Compile all the old tests and quizzes from the whole semester and use those as a resource for the review. Does the exam contain many terms? If it does, notecards may be your best friend as the actual act of writing down terms and subvocalizing what is written activates part of the brain that reinforces the storage of the material in long-term memory. Flashcards and websites like Quizlet also promote active recall and help honestly answer, “How well do I understand this topic?” or “Is my answer complete?” Another useful strategy also offers a very honest assessment of the ability to recall information. Cover a page of notes or text and then use a whiteboard or piece of paper to write down all the facts and details that can be recalled. There are numerous strategies and tips for preparing for exams; finding the one that works best for an individual is a valuable and lifelong tool.
Perhaps the most important thing for all of us to remember, regardless of whether we are preparing to face an exam or that difficult relative who always complains about lumpy gravy during the holiday meal, is to take time for self-care. Walk, breathe, feed, and water yourself properly. Prepare for what you can control and be patient with what you can’t. Open your eyes to the kindness and love of the season.