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It can be horribly discouraging and disheartening when students study really hard for an exam but don’t get the result they were hoping for.

And fair enough too.

It’s an awful feeling when you’ve given something a really good shot and haven’t reaped the rewards you were hoping for.

Well today I want to talk about something that I suspect is a big contributing factor to why students don’t always reap what they sow.

As Chris and I have said from the beginning, so much of the time, teenagers get crappy exam results NOT because they’re not capable of getting good grades, but because they don’t understand how to study efficiently and effectively in a way that works for them.

For instance, your teen may not be good at taking in written information. They could spend all day reading a text book, but may not retain so much as a syllable.

The effort was there, but the method wasn’t right.

To get good grades you need to be crafty

Your teen needs to think about what’s going to be in the exam, and what is the best way to prepare for what’s in store.

Let me elaborate.

Let’s say your teen has a History exam. If your teen knows that they’re going to be asked to write on an essay topic about WW2, it’s not enough for them to simply read about WW2 and write general notes about it.

They MUST actually WRITE practice essays about the area(s) of WW2 they think they’re going to be examined on.

If your teen is sitting a Biology exam where they’re going to have to label parts of a cell, it’s not enough for them to learn the different parts of a cell. It’s essential that they actually practice labelling a cell diagram!

You wouldn’t prepare for a practical driving test by only reading the road rules

You’d drive a car!

And the same goes for exams.

If your teen doesn’t practice doing the things they’re going to have to do in the exam, they may not be able to translate what they’ve studied into the format the exam requires.

Obviously, if your teen has been given zero clues as to what the format of the exam is going to be and what topics are likely to come up, this task could be tricky, and they’ll just have to do their best. Our Exam Survival Package elaborates on what your teen can do to master the process of preparing for exams.

Hopefully your teen will have an abundance of past exams to look at and attempt.

I can’t emphasise enough how important this is!

Studying is not about putting in a certain number of hours, it’s about readying yourself to answer the exact type of questions that will be asked in the exam.

Image Credit: Robwest on Flickr



  1. I totally agree. As a driving instructor I have to teach exactly what will be tested. Show and tell theory questions, actual mock theory questions and even trial run exams where I pretend to be an examiner. The reason I do this is because when I was at school my maths teacher gave me 5 years worth of previous exam papers and told me to do them. I did and got loads wrong which I was corrected on which I remembered and came up on my actual exam. Practice must be real or its not practice!

  2. “To get good grades you need to be crafty”

    It’s true. Getting good grades on your driving lesson test is as much understanding what the exact questions will be on the paper than what a student should learn to know how to drive!

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