|The reality is that the student may be "in over their head" and no amount of effort will get a satisfactory result. Or maybe the student does not have the time to overly focus on one course over the others even for a short time to recover from a failing grade. This is a difficult and even emotional decision but should at least be momentarily considered. Is this class a necessity? Is there the ability to drop it? If you feel recovery is possible or if there is no other open option then on to the Recovery Plan. Though I am calling this a recovery plan – this is also a “B+ to an A+” or C to a B+" plan!
Understand how the final grade is arrived at in detail as this impacts strategy especially if one part is overly emphasized. Usually the “battle” is between homework and exams. Exams are usually the predominant part of the grade - so rally around the next exam, midterm or final. You need 7-14 days for this Mock Test plan below. If homework plays a predominant role, then homework needs to be improved and that will help future exam results too. There also may be opportunities for extra credit – that can be very helpful!
Sometimes an instructor will allow a retake of a failed exam. It’s worth asking! My own daughter, in statistics, was allowed a retake and she got a solid A from an F!
For past material already covered on an exam that will not be covered on a final exam, unless the concepts carry through, this material may be able to be ignored from this point forward. Be careful though because “math is cumulative”. As much as the student may wish one topic can be dropped forever, it may not be true. Step-by-step Approach to a Mock Test
- Create a timeline by working backwards from the exam date, including the steps below in your timeline. Make sure that every element of the recovery plan timeline is placed in the student’s calendar, and that they “honor” their calendar. The more the timeline is compressed, the more daily time must be dedicated to execute the plan. Often the teacher will provide more notice of an exam if they are asked. The student doesn’t need an exact date – just the earliest date and the test content.
- For pre-college students, according to the parent’s preferences, it may make sense to offer a “reward” of some kind if the student achieves a milestone grade improvement. I suggest a symbolic award is a more impactful than the cost of the reward. Recognition vs. cost.
- The student prepares intensively for the next exam resulting in a “mock exam” 3-4 days before the actual exam. There are several steps to design and administer the mock exam.
- The student and/or parent meet with the instructor seeking as much guidance as possible as to what will be covered in the next exam. Explain to instructor and ask for guidance in designing the mock exam. Every instructor wants their students to succeed and there’s nothing as delightful to an instructor as a student that is motivated to improve and the “turnaround” of such a motivated student. That makes instructing worthwhile!
- Student awareness to the teacher’s hints in class is crucial. Often it takes until college years for students to comprehend this. Instructors drop hints all the time – sometimes blatant. “This problem or one identical to it will be on the exam.” Or “You might see this type of problem again.” The last comment might be delivered with a wink and a smile. An aware student is a good student. They will hear the instructors hints to test content loud and clear and write it down.
- Design the mock exam. Almost certainly you need a tutor’s help on this. The test should consist of fresh “never-been-worked-problems”. But it is up to parent/student to meet with the instructor and collect the list of problem types to be on the exam. Note that for college courses, it may be possible to find old exams from the same class/professor. Though it’s possible the professor may “re-use” the old exam – your purpose is to use the old exam as a mock exam to prepare for the actual exam. There is nothing wrong in using an old exam to prepare.
- The student should prepare for the mock test as if they are preparing for the actual test, but more thoroughly than thus far. Prepare by working problems of each type expected. Spend little time on reviewing existing “worked” problems. Instead, find more “fresh” problems (for which you have answers), and work the fresh problems. The more problems worked the better. Progress to more difficult problems of each type as you can. A good tutor has an endless supply of problems to work.
- The student works the mock exam in same environment and conditions as the actual exam. Observe the same rules. (Calculator allowed or disallowed, cheat sheet allowed or disallowed, etc.) The student should literally “pretend” they are taking the exam like actors rehearse a scene. Use a location that mimics a quiet exam environment. Of course, time the exam.
- The student and/or tutor uses the mock exam results to focus their last minute efforts the next 24 hours.
- 24-36 hours before the actual exam, the student is ready. Now the student can relax, perhaps exercise the day before the exam and get a great sleep the night before the exam.
- The student walks into the exam relaxed and confident – no last minute cramming necessary. Probably no one has prepared as well or has worked as many problems. Probably the most prepared they have ever been for an exam! Improving homework results and test-taking skills: Now there are two topics to address in a future blog!