Successful Ways for Kids to Prepare for Tests

Question: This year, my daughter, a high-school sophomore, has really studied for tests. She re-reads the material and then reviews several nights before the test. Unfortunately, the new material doesn't stick, so she rarely gets better than a low B grade on tests. It seems to me that she is doing everything that she can to prepare for tests. Do you have any suggestions that might help her get better grades? -- Studying a Lot

Answer: A great number of educators endorse the study techniques that your daughter has been using. They do make students believe that they know a subject and are ready for a test. A new study technique has emerged based on research by Dr. Henry L. Roediger III and Dr. Mark A. McDaniel of Washington University in St. Louis.

The two psychologists have found that "what really matters when it comes to making use of new knowledge is your ability to retrieve it when you need it." They advocate students practice retrieving information at spaced intervals instead of doing a lot of re-reading.

Changing to this new study technique is work and doesn't always give students better test grades immediately. It involves students quizzing themselves or taking quizzes over new material. This is not as hard as it sounds. Almost all textbooks have an activities section at the end of each chapter that requires students to recall information. By practicing the retrieval of information over spaced intervals of time, students will remember it over the long haul.

You and your child should look at the SQ4R study technique, as it involves questioning and reciting information. Besides doing end-of-chapter activities, it will help your child learn how to retrieve rather than re-read material as a study technique. On our website,, you will find a description of the SQ4R study technique under "Skill Builders" -- "Study Skills."