The “Finals” Stretch: Getting Started

By Benjellica Jones Smyre

Year after year, LAS gets a similar set of questions from parents and students about how best to prepare for finals. In the next few posts, I aim to answer a few frequently asked questions and help students approach their final exams with confidence.

How can my student prepare in advance for exams?

Encourage your student to begin reaching out to teachers with questions regarding their exams. To some this may seem like an easy task, while for others this may seem quite arduous as their ability to self-advocate may be in the emergent phase. Students may benefit from roleplaying the discussions with their Scholastic Manager or using part of a meeting to obtain support with composing emails to teachers.

What questions should my student ask? 

1. What information will be covered on the exam (or within the paper)?

Before asking this question, students would benefit from engaging in reflection regarding what topics were covered during the term and considering what might be included on the final. Reviewing materials from the term before conversations with teachers allows students to ask more specific questions about where to focus their energy when studying for the exam. For example, a student could ask, “will we need to know details about the causes of the French-Indian War?” instead of a more general “What do we need to know?”. Students should record their questions as they review the material to organize their thinking and provide a place for recording notes during the conversation with their teacher.

2. How will the exam be structured: multiple-choice, short-answer, essay, etc.?

The structure of an exam determines how students need to apply their knowledge. For example, a multiple choice question requires a student to recognize and distinguish between information, whereas short answer questions require a high level of dependence on memory and application of knowledge. If students can find out the structure of the test ahead of time, this information can help determine the students’ approach to studying and self-assessment.

3. Which resources should I use?

These days, students have a plethora of resources literally at their fingertips. Teachers often post readings, lectures, etc. online throughout the term and, unfortunately, many students fail to use those resources to build knowledge over time. Additionally, some resources may be more valuable than others when it comes to preparing for exams.

4. Should I expect a study guide?  

Sometimes teachers share a study guide, and this typically happens during days leading up to the exam. Often, teachers prepare study guides in advance but wait to distribute them until closer to the test date. Many students benefit greatly from extra time to self-assess so they can use the results to direct their review process. Students can respectfully ask to receive the study guide as soon as possible by explaining that they benefit from extra time to review information.

On the surface, these four questions may seem straightforward, but they require some forethought and preparation on behalf of the student. Additionally, many of our students have some difficulty self-organizing, especially when the deadline (in this case, final exams) may seem far away. Students may also need help with planning the best method for communicating these questions to teachers in the most effective way and following up if they do not immediately receive an answer to their questions.

LAS often supports students with preparing to study (information gathering), building a study plan, implementing a study plan with fidelity, making the most of accommodations for testing, managing testing anxiety, and more. Developing effective study skills is so important for meeting success in school, especially for our students who often have strong intellectual capabilities and need support with cultivating and demonstrating their knowledge.

LAS can help your student develop and implement an evidence-based plan that makes the most of the time leading up to their exams. Reach out to us at or 847.446.5822.

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