I sometimes bump into students on a last minute rush to prepare for a test, especially math tests. Most of us know this can be a tense moment particularly when the class is incomprehensible and the previous test results reflect these challenges. For high school students Geometry courses have generally fallen in this category while for College students, Statistics rings a bell.
This past Spring (2011), I had a Beverly Hills High student perform a near impossible feat: succeeding in Geometry beyond expectation. He had 3-4 weeks left to his finals in Geometry and his previous scores were lower than passing scores, with at least 3 quizzes left and 2 tests before the final. Playing basketball gave him an avenue to channel possible anxieties; in addition to having proper rest the night before tests (no studying late before the test day), he developed a review plan where he studied small pieces of information (including the difficult ones) over short periods (30-45min) spaced out during the day and week. The outcome was desirable he moved 4 letter grades up in 4 weeks and managed the previous elusive A! score in his second to last test. This is not beyond anyone yearning to succeed.
In the same period I was working with a USC Business student (Marshall) who had always been a straight A student until he met Statistics. Previously USC had two statistics courses for Business School students but due to student complaints one was dropped. Still, the remaining one proved a hard nut. I had to absorb some of his anxieties: not the best feeling but the only way to focus on the ultimate goal. We developed an alternative studying strategy. This would actually work well if there is constant review of class notes and a basic or advanced understanding of the class material. He focused on practised tests from all the finals and midterms that had been offered in the class the last 5 years. The end result was 97/100 in the final and the only question he missed was due to a minor error.
There are several strategies students are using to succeed: watch out for more as we continue this journey. Also you can check out this self teaching website (http://www.khanacademy.com)