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Making the Grade: 10 Smart Study Tips for Students

When it comes to test-taking, what can you do to ensure your kids really know their stuff? (Hint: It's not helping them power through a late-night cram session.) We chatted up the experts to learn their very best tips.
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Create a Study Schedule
Putting off studying until the day before, then frantically trying to digest weeks' worth of information until midnight—or later. Is your kid's test-prep M.O. something like that? If so, it's time to shake up his routine. "Cramming is a short-term solution to passing an imminent test," says Jessica Brondo, founder of The Edge in College Prep, edgeincollegeprep.com. "But students who study over longer periods will recall material more easily come test time." Ideally, your child would keep up with his work and only review for the test. To start him on that path, suggest that he begin studying at least a week in advance and let him plan daily half-hour work sessions. Have him post the schedule where you both can see it, like on the fridge or by the family computer.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Test taking is like any other skill, so having your child run through sample exam questions—with a focus on what he struggles with—could result in better grades. "Practice tests familiarize students with the material and how it may be presented on the actual exam," says Laurie E. Rozakis, author of Test Taking Strategies & Skills for the Utterly Confused. Encourage your teen to make his own quizzes by changing the numbers in challenging math problems or reworking topic sentences from his textbooks into questions and then answering them.

Respect Your Child's Learning Style
Help your child determine how he learns best: Does he absorb the most information when someone explains it directly to him? Or grasp ideas when they're drawn out as pictures or graphs? Once he's figured that out, urge him to develop complementary study habits. An audio learner can record himself explaining difficult topics and play back his lecture when walking around the house or neighborhood. If your child is a visual learner, purchase a white board and advise him to map out information in charts with colored markers. "It's really important for parents not to force a certain style of studying onto their children because that can backfire," says Vanessa Van Petten, author and creator of radicalparenting.com. "Many students grow to hate math or science simply because they had teachers who taught in a way that was different from their learning style."