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Jan. 10, 2006

Ready, get set… study!

by Merlyn Deng, Online Editor-in-Chief
Blazers sit quietly at home. Moody, if not hostile, they have stopped seeing friends, talking and going to parties or to after-school activities. Instead, they hide themselves from the world, occasionally venturing out of their rooms for a snack or break. The explanation for this behavior is simple, if not a bit daunting: exam week is almost upon us.

Yes, Exam Week, the dreaded time of year when students sit through 2-hour exams for almost every subject, and the impact exams have on grades is prominent. Final exams make up 25 percent of a semester grade, which means they can make or break a student's transcript.

In an informal survey of 100 students taken on Jan. 6 during 5B lunch and after school, only 41 percent of students said they had begun studying for this semester's final exams, which begin Jan. 13. But there is no need to despair; there are plenty of ways to ready yourself.

Organizing, getting academic help

The first step to doing well is getting organized, according to sophomore Austin Jacobson. Jacobson recently bought a pocket-planner after experiencing a fall in his grades and has noticed that it helps him stay organized. "It works better for me because I can pull it out of my pocket," he says. "It keeps my mind straight."

Organization is just the first step of the studying process. After this initial step, there is no limit to the types of studying methods students use and teachers recommend.

The adage "two heads are better than one" applies to many recommended studying methods. Science teacher Brita Johannessen says, "Study with a group of friends." Ana Ramos, a junior, agrees but believes that students should broaden the number of people they study with. "Stay after class to talk to your teachers about what you don't know, or talk to your friends," she says. Ramos also suggests going to departmental academic support – schedules and locations may be found here – which have schedules convenient for all students.

Social studies teachers George Vlasits and James Mogge hold an annual study skills workshop specifically geared for 9th grade CAP students. Although the workshop is for CAP freshmen only, Vlasits emphasizes that these study skills are necessary for all students. "Students [need to learn] time-management, how to get more out of reading the textbook, how to study, how to take notes and [how to develop strategies] for writing essays," he says.

Despite Vlasits's list of important study skills, he boils it all down to one major piece of advice: "Studying and cramming are not the same thing. The key to doing well is to learn the material well the first time," he says. According to Vlasits, cramming is the biggest error that students make. "When you're studying for a final, you're simply trying to review," he says.

The unconventional and the lucky

In addition to using conventional study techniques like reviewing and taking notes, other Blazers have tried more unique approaches to help them nail their toughest subjects. Senior Danielle Freebourne has a musical approach to help her with difficult math tests and exams. "I make up songs," she says. "It helps me memorize concepts and formulas."

While Blazers may not have Harry Potter's "Felix Felicis" potion to help them ace exams or accomplish awesome feats with unshakable confidence, some students do have other superstitions that they believe will help them on exam day. Freshman Novian Haynes has faith in his hair. "I grew out my hair for luck to help me on the exams," he says, showing off his Afro.

Although freshman Xenia Oroxom does not have a voluminous hairdo to enhance her test-taking abilities, she does possess various lucky charms to reinforce her studying. "I go to math help and I have a good luck t-shirt and good luck earrings," she says.

Oroxom says that her charms do not actually make her lucky, but they make her feel more secure about her subjects. "They make me more confident," she says. "When you have something lucky, you feel you can do anything as long as you study."

All of these things come down to one thing: Exam day. Regardless of how much studying, organizing or luck invested for an exam, Johannessen offers one piece of advice that is essential to all would-be successful test-takers: "Remember to get sleep and eat breakfast."



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  • exams rule on January 11, 2006 at 9:28 AM
    come on...half days, no hw, going in late...it RULES!
  • fellow student on January 11, 2006 at 12:05 PM
    Yay Merlyn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Aaron on January 11, 2006 at 12:17 PM
    yea, novian. way to talk bout ur fro.. wrestling rox. u ace that test novian
  • * on January 11, 2006 at 3:24 PM
    I think that review day is pointless. everyone knows that no one every gets anything done in a 45 min class! may i suggest two days to review?
  • taha on January 11, 2006 at 3:46 PM
    Blazers stand happily with their friends. Excited, if not ecstatic, they have started seeing friends, talking and going to parties or to after-school activities. They hide themselves from school, occasionally venturing out of dowtown silver spring and each others houses for a snack or break. The explanation for this behavior is simple, if not a bit daunting — exam week is almost upon us.

    Yes, Exam Week, the highly anticipated time of year when students sit through 2-hour long exams for almost every subject AND THEG GET OUT EARLY EVERY DAY FOLLOWED BY A FAVE DAY WEEKEND, and the impact exams have on grades is prominent but as long as you get a C, your grade doesnt usually change. Final exams make up 25 percent of a semester grade, which means they canNOT make or break a student's transcript.


    Blazers, dont act like you stya at home and study. Exam week is a time of lon-awaited rest, half-days and days off just b/c were taking tests when you know you only have to get a certain grade to keep the one u already have. Im shooting for straight-Cs
  • >.o on January 11, 2006 at 8:23 PM
    cramming is not studying?! oops...
  • exams= teh suxxxoor on January 11, 2006 at 8:55 PM
    While Blazers may not have Harry Potter's "Felix Felicis" potion to help them ace exams or accomplish awesome feats with unshakable confidence

    what a weird out-of-place reference..

    but nice harry potter reference! props
  • Zachary Hall (View Email) on January 11, 2006 at 11:01 PM
    "Final exams make up 25 percent of a semester grade, which means they can make or break a student's transcript." First of all, as you all no doubt know, the grades are rounded. This means that if you have 2 of the same grade, you only have to get at least 2 below what you have. So if you have 2 A?s, you only need a C on the exam. You have 2 B?s you need at least a D, and if you have 2 of anything else an exam can?t lower your grade. Furthermore, since you take a lot of classes, 64 for people with 8th period, 56 for kids without, one grade only makes a difference of .0156 or .0179, depending on whether you have an 8th period or not. It is almost always rounded to the nearest tenth, so it virtually makes no difference for one grade. Ah, a pocket planner. Now we can see what grades really reflect. How much people are willing to spend. Sorry, I?m not buying that. You can do everything in your planbook that you can do in an electronic planner in terms of school. You seem to assume that studying is a good thing. I see the brainwashing of public school has worked. Why are we taking these courses? Why are we taking the exam? To learn it? Why don?t we learn it the first time? In real life, you can?t ?study? for a time when you?ll need the information. But you can look up the information. So why aren?t our exams all open book? Still the same amount of time, but if you forget something and it?s worth your time on the exam to look it up, you should be able to. It?s like real life. Mr. Vlasits makes a very good point. ?Studying and cramming are not the same thing. The key to doing well is to learn the material well the first time.? But he goes on to say, ?when you?re studying for a final, you?re simply trying to review?. May I ask why? Are we really learning the material for a test? While I think Mr. Vlasits? approach to tests seems a bit better than most teachers I?ve had experience with, you cannot get away from the fact that studying is trying to learn something for the short term, for one test. It has absolutely no benefit in the long run, which is why I take the courses I do. You then go on to talk of someone making up songs to remember things on exams. ?It helps me memorize concepts and formulas.? What does this accomplish? Do you think if you ever need the information in real life you would remember this song? Why are we so caught up in memorizing formulas? In real life if we?re trying to figure something out is the formula not available? It?s a pretty simple google search or else a look in the old math book. Yet we want kids taking these classes to memorize the formulas, understanding that it won?t help them the rest of their lives. So this is teaching to the tests. Where?s the logic in that? Tests are to measure what you learn, you don?t learn what?s going to be on the test (at least you shouldn?t). You finally get to the one good piece of advice: ?Remember to get sleep and eat breakfast.? Now if I were in charge of the school system, this is how the tests would be run: All exams would be pop exams. Kids would not know when their exam was. This would prevent memorization and cramming as well as minimize the effects of studying. Then the exam itself would be open book. No extra time, so looking something up takes time (as in real life) but if it?s worth it students are able to look up something they forget. Of course if we made the exams a surprise kids wouldn?t do as well. If this were the case the standards should be lower. Maybe an A is 85% and higher. But parents seem to think lower percentage of an A and lower standards mean kids aren?t learning as much. So of course we make an A easy to get if you do homework and generally understand the class. In my opinion an A should be much harder to get than it is now, but not by raising the percentage to be an A. Tests should actually make you think, it shouldn?t just be memorize everything and put it down on the test. Of course that means an A is harder to get, thus instead of a B being good and an A being great. It may be something like an A is amazing and a B is great, maybe D being average. I don?t know what would happen, but that wouldn?t satisfy parents who always want it to look like their kid is doing the best. Just because over half the class gets the best grade (an A) doesn?t upset them. Of course then you get an 100% and colleges see an A, which could be a 90%. We should also be reporting percentages to colleges. We have computers, what?s so hard about putting a few extra characters instead of a letter. We don?t even need quarter and exam grades. Just calculate with the exam being 25% the percentage in a number as the grade rather than just a number. I went a bit off topic but how about back to the original topic. What about taking notes? It?s amazing how many teachers instead of teaching have sunk to ?giving notes?. They tell you and you copy down the information. Then later you can go back, memorize it, and pass the test. Everyone?s happy. Then a month later you forget it all and you still don?t care, and neither do the teachers. Unless you have an AP test. See, the only thing anyone cares about any more is tests? Are we here in school to pass tests or to learn? I like to think the latter, but the school seems to only care about tests, and NCLB has only made it worse. We are reduced to teaching to the test, and ?will this be on the test?? is a common question. Why do people care what will be on a test? Shouldn?t you care about learning it anyway even if it won?t be on the test? But we have been brainwashed into only caring about grades and tests. The beginning they were good. They were a reflection of learning, but now instead of grades reflecting learning, the learning is based on the tests. Now we don?t learn anything that will help us, we learn stuff because of tests. Now thankfully I?ve had a few teachers who understood that tests weren?t everything. They?ve taught and I?ve actually learned something, regardless of whether there was a test on it. (And if you?re a teacher I?ve had and you?re reading this now, assume you?re in that few :)). But many teachers just want me to copy what they write on the board, memorize them at night, and take tests that way. I may not do as well on the tests, but I refuse to ?learn? that way. I?ll take learning something over passing a test on it any day. Your high school GPA goes away once you enter college, but what you really learn in high school will stay with you the rest of your life. So just remember that while you?re studying for hours for those tests that I?m sitting here relaxing, typing up a reply to this SCO article.
  • libertarian blazer on January 12, 2006 at 9:43 AM
    good, thorough article! nice job getting a survey for it
  • shagtaw on January 12, 2006 at 1:49 PM
    i like.
    also, every time anyone makes a harry potter reference, i give them six more cool points. congrats, foo'
  • vikes on January 15, 2006 at 8:27 AM
    good job
  • i agree with taha on January 16, 2006 at 11:45 AM
    Finally, a chance for a break! I haven't done anything this 3 day weekend except watch TV and sleep in late. Exam week rocks, because all you have to do is sit through a 2 hr period, and then you get off for the rest of the day. If you don't have exams one day, you don't even have to come in! Yeahh
  • PLEASE on January 16, 2006 at 4:49 PM
    DOUBLE A EXMEPTION IS THE KEY. Why does a student (who could very well be bad at taking tests) once again prove their knowledge in a subjec tthat they already got As in. It is not very easy to get As at MBHS so those who work hard and succeed sshould be given a prize and acknowledgement that their hard work is recogniozed and does not need to be proved FOUR TIMES (twice for both quarters, once for the final exam and once of the AP exam)
  • ash on January 18, 2006 at 1:34 AM
    I know certain teachers who force grades down if their students "give up" before finals.. as in AAC is not an A but rather a B or even a C.And it is true that exams can make or break semester grades; many of my friends are going BA or AB in a class so whether they get an A or B on the final determines their transcript grade.
  • smart fart on January 19, 2006 at 2:23 AM
    study?

    pshaw...
  • No double A exemption on January 21, 2006 at 6:07 PM
    Double A exemption is a chance for students who cheat to capitalize off the system. If you're going to get an "A" in the class, I argue that you should be able to get at least a "B" on the exam, no problem. Exams prepare students for the "real world" where retention of information and skills is vital.
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