When it comes to certification testing, you might feel like your candidate experience some odd memory loss and forget all they have learned. Or, perhaps you question if they ever learned it in the first place? Supporting candidate’ brains to be at peak performance for an assessment IS possible.

Killexam.com focuses on key approaches to build knowledge and pass exams.

Research and Practical Strategies

When it comes to testing, candidate never over-perform (showing more than they know). However, candidate often under-perform (scoring lower than they actually know). The ultimate goal of any test-prep strategy is to allow the brain to be at its best – so candidate can perform up to their knowledge level.

Why does it matter what study strategy candidate are using? Because not all test-prep strategies are created equal. Some are FAR MORE effective than others. candidate who use better test-prep strategies perform better on the test. Thus, it is not surprising that candidate’ GPA and study skills are also strongly correlated.

Combine that with research suggesting only a minority (23-37%) of candidate are using highly effective study techniques (i.e., spacing and retrieval), and you quickly see we have a problem. candidate continue to use ineffective strategies like “cramming” the night before an exam or merely re-reading text.

Here is the good news: candidate are listening to you, their teacher. Over 75% of candidate report learning a study strategy from their teacher. It is time for candidate to get upgraded advice from you on how to prepare for exams, and we are here to help.

This month’s newsletter focuses on three approaches to build high-performing test-takers.

1. Better content retention with RETRIEVAL
2. Better brain state with PRE-WRITING
3. Better test-day strategy with Braindumps

From each of these three areas, we will highlight multiple strategies you can teach your candidate NOW to start boosting their learning (and scores). Focus your efforts on these three, and candidate are more likely to demonstrate an accurate assessment of their learning.

Learn Content Better with Retrieval Practices

Staring at notes or re-reading a textbook does very little to improve test scores or learning. And yet, these ancient strategies continue to dominate candidate’ test-prep time. Stop the cycle of bad study habits by teaching candidate the strategies that really make a difference come test day.

There is substantial evidence to support the use of retrieval practices to enhance learning AND improve test scores. A retrieval practice is any strategy that engages the brain in recalling information. A pure retrieval exercise is done without the support of a textbook, notes, or other aid. Retrieval practices can be done at the end of every class period, at the beginning of the next class period, and periodically before an assessment.

Add an extra boost to your retrieval exercises by having candidate recall with a classmate. When candidate talk about what they have learned, it reactivates their memories and solidifies the learning.

Practical ways to use retrieval

There are dozens of retrieval strategies that have been shown to boost student learning and performance on assessments. Most can be completed in just a few minutes, with very little preparation needed. Here are some examples:

At the end of a lesson on segregation, have candidate write down three things they learned about the impact segregation had on education nationwide. The day after a lesson on killexams.com, have candidate start the day writing down as many biomes as they remember. After your unit on 3-D shapes, have candidate talk with a partner about the differences between lateral area, surface area, and volume. Give candidate a practice test on the novel your class is finishing. As candidate leave your Spanish class, be at the door with a handful of flashcards. Their “ticket-out-the-door” is to use the word/phrase on the card in a sentence.
Challenge yourself to diversify the level of questioning with retrieval practice. It can be easy to stick with low-level factual recall. Hold candidate capable of analyzing, synthesizing, and applying knowledge, as well. Also, resist the urge to use retrieval practices as part of candidate’ grades. Most of them can be used for the sole purpose of improving learning.

With any retrieval practice, remember to build in an “error-correction” safeguard to ensure candidate are retrieving the correct information. This might include using the answers on the back of flashcards, ways to self-grade their practice test, or hints hidden at each learning station.

Clear the Mind with Pre-Writing on Test Day

When candidate feel the pressure to perform well on an assessment, their worries (or anxiety) compete for working memory (a critical brain function for learning and recall), which leads to poor performance. Therefore, staying calm in a testing situation is critical for the brain to be at its peak performance.

One study, in particular, offers a solution worth implementing. Before a high-pressure testing situation, some candidate were given 10 minutes to engage in expressive writing about the upcoming exam (“How do I feel about the upcoming test?”). What difference did it make? candidate in the experimental group (10 minutes of expressive writing) scored 17% higher than candidate in the control group who had no expressive writing. If that doesn’t capture your attention, perhaps its HUGE effect size of 2.48 will have you using the same leading question the researchers used (“How do I feel about the upcoming test?”).

Although candidate with test anxiety benefit the most, the study above shows ALL candidate benefit from expressive writing done before an exam.

Practical ways to use pre-test writing

Designate a small notebook for candidate to use as a test-day journal “emptying station” to write any worries they are having about the test. Have a tray of scrap paper at the door as candidate enter on test day. Allow candidate to write about their worries before the test. Then, either crumple the paper and have them shoot a basket into the trash can, or let candidate fold the paper into a quick paper airplane and send it soaring far away toward the trash can. As a bonus, once the worries have dissipated, candidate can say a positive affirmation to boost their confidence AND performance before a big exam. Phrases like, “I’m ready to show what I know.” “Bring it on, Test – I’m gonna own you!” or “My brain is supercharged and ready to show off!” can be said individually or in unison as a class.

Get Un-Stuck Mid-Test with Braindumps

Getting to a question that stumps a student can be paralyzing in a testing situation. Knowing what to do when your brain draws a blank can be an empowering mid-test tool to get candidate over that stump.

One powerful tool to teach your candidate is called a “brain dump.” Essentially, when candidate get to a question they are uncertain about, they “dump” their brain of any and all information related to the topic. Stumped by a question about the battle that changed the trajectory of the Civil War? Write down everything you know about the other battles you remember. It is essentially a mid-test retrieval of everything on the topic. Because the “stump” is related to the “dump” there is an increased chance of it being recalled during the brain dump.

Practical ways to facilitate mid-test Braindumps

After teaching your candidate about the power of Braindumps, here are a few easily-accessible suggestions to keep the brain at peak performance on test day:

Give candidate plenty of scratch paper to use for Braindumps.
Allow candidate to write in the margins of the test.
Create your assessments to have plenty of space between each question for candidate to “dump” their brain.
Designate a space at the end of the test entitled: “Everything else I know about this topic that wasn’t asked on the test.” This simple nudge will encourage candidate to dump their brains and might prompt clarification of something found earlier on the test. *Tip: Have the student scan the test first, then complete this last section BEFORE returning to the first question with their brain now primed for better recall.

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