Whatever grade you are in, at some point in in Term 4 you are going to sit your end-of-year exams, and the school holidays are the perfect time to start getting prepared so that you're feeling confident and organised.
Here are three things you should be doing right now to get on top of your Term 4 exam prep.
1. Organise your notes
Most students will have spent the first three terms of the year taking notes in class. For some these notes will be copious transcripts of their teachers; for others they will be random scribblings jotted down on the back of assignment sheets. Whatever you've got, now's the right time to try to organise them.
We'll talk later about the different approaches to study notes, but at a minimum you should be able to put together a one-page summary for each topic you have studied thus far, outlining the key learnings and a couple of important terms or ideas. For English you should have quick summaries of the texts you have studied with a couple of key quotes and key scenes; for History, timelines, or short biographies of key people, or key events; for the sciences you'll want definitions of terms or important formulae.
If you have been taking notes it should be relatively easy to compile them into this more organised format. If your notes are sparse, or you've lost a lot of them, now is the perfect time to outline them broadly and to identify in which topics you are lacking information. Remember that identifying information you *don't* have is just as important as creating an outline of the information you *do* have, so don't be disheartened if, like most students, your notes are missing something.
Comprehensive notes are great, but even brief outlines of some topics are better to have than nothing at all. Even just writing a half-page summary of each topic can be helpful when it comes to study.
And the best news is that organising your notes is itself study. We know that the very act of going through your notes and sorting them out helps with memory, and helps you to build context between disparate bits of information, so if you have set aside dedicated time for study, organising your notes is a great use of that time.
2. Redo past exams
Over the past three terms you will have done tests, either quick in-class quizzes, end-of-topic tests, trials or your half-yearly exams. These tests are a valuable resource, so don't forget about them once they are done. Now is a good time to revisit the tests you've done so far this year and have another crack at them. Pull out questions and make sure you can still do them.
Redoing questions from past exams is good revision, but it also helps you to identify those questions with which you are struggling; even if you managed to get it right earlier in the year, if you find it a challenge now then you'll find it a challenge in the exam.
If you don't have past papers, you could take an online practice test in the subject you are studying.
The important questions
You need to be a bit clever about this. Some questions you will, at a glance, know you are completely across; others you will know are a struggle, but in the middle are those questions which you reckon you are pretty much across, but which you aren't.
These are the questions that you feel like you understand in principle, but for which you can't visualise the entire solution. These are the most important questions to target when revising old exams because these are the questions that just a little revision will help embed in your brain, the questions you are so close to lodging in your head. These questions that you kind of get now could end up being the questions that cause you trouble in the exam, so right now is the right time to bed them down.
Practice essay writing
Past exams are most appropriate for subjects like maths and the sciences, subjects where you get a lot of short-answer questions covering a whole topic. English, history, and other essay-based subjects might seem like a poor fit for this past exam revision, but actually they're not.
Don't waste your time rewriting an entire essay though - that's not good revision. Instead, quickly jot down an essay plan. Put down a thesis statement, a topic sentence for each point you want to make (and you can include more points than you would normally, because this is just revision, you're not actually going to write it up), and identify a couple of pieces of supporting evidence, that's good revision.
Not only is this good revision, it's also great practice for essay writing. If you feel you need extra practice at the actual writing portion of the essay writing process, easy: pick the intro, or the conclusion, or one of the paragraphs from any of these essay plans you knock up and write it out.
And make sure to save these essay plans, adding them to your notes, because they will be very helpful for your revision throughout the rest of the year. Download a free essay planner here.
3. Ask for help
By doing these first two steps you may realise that there is a particular type of question, or a particular topic, with which you are struggling. Maybe you can't even do a topic outline because you just don't get that topic at all. That's fine, you have plenty of time to get across anything that is causing you trouble - that's the most important reason for doing all this prep now, so that you can identify anything you missed or don't understand and get help with it now.
If you don't get a particular concept or can't answer a particular question talk to your teacher, your parents, or to our specialists, and you will get help. If you're prepared to talk to your friends about this sort of stuff, maybe one of them can help you. The longer you leave it, the less time you will have to get it locked in, so identify the issues now and get help as soon as you can so that you have a lot of time to get everything sorted out.
School is hard
Don't feel bad about not understanding something. I can't stress this enough. School is hard. You're not supposed to understand everything straight away - that's why there are teachers, and study guides, and services like Studiosity, to help you. It might take a couple of passes over the content before it sticks, and that's fine because you have plenty of time to make as many passes as you need, if you get on top of it now and ask for help if you need it.
So now is the time for getting your notes organised, revising old exams, and, if you identify an area with which you need help, getting that help. If you do all this you will be in good shape for the end-of-year exams.