Ask Abbie: How can I help my daughter study for tests?

Published 11:34 am Saturday, November 10, 2012

Question: My daughter is a ninth-grade student. She always says “I’m going to get all A’s this time” and gets very frustrated when she doesn’t meet her goal.

I tell her she is doing great, but she keeps beating herself up. There are only a couple of subjects she can’t seem to get an A in.

Do you have any creative study tips, or ways for me to help keep her from giving up?

A mom who wants to help

Answer: “I hope that I can always desire more than I can accomplish.”

This quote from Michelangelo expresses his approach to continual self-improvement as setting goals higher than attainable. To him, an achieved goal meant complacency and stagnation.

More than 450 years after Michelangelo’s death, the world still talks about the prolific painter who chose inspiration without frustration.

Help your daughter understand and adopt Michelangelo’s positive outlook regarding her unmet goals while reassuring her she is also destined for greatness and will forever have your support.

With refreshed perspective studying becomes an art rather than a routine process.


The following tips will help her master the trade:

* Study tip No. 1: Use 3- by 5-inch flashcards.

As the teacher speaks, write any points mentioned more than once in a notebook. Mark these items with a star. If the teacher makes a point to say “study this specific information for the upcoming test,” or to write down a specific item, record it in the notebook and circle it for importance.

Each day make flashcards using the day’s starred and circled-material; use one question per card with the answer on back.

Supplement with additional cards based on other important concepts from textbooks and class materials.

Studying a little each day prevents last-minute anxiety. Along the way, pick a few cards at random and quiz your daughter. This helps you obtain a gauge of her progress and identify areas where she may need help.

Move any “easy” cards to a separate stack to only be reviewed again the day before the test. Flashcards become a student’s best friend and should be reviewed whenever a spare minute arises.

* Study tip No. 2: Catchy sayings. Any list to memorize, using a little creativity, can be converted into an image or perhaps funny way to remember it using the first letters of each list item. For example, “morning’s very early moon jumps the S.U.N.” is also our planets in order from the sun — Mercury, Venus, Earth, Juniper, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

* Study tip No. 3: Teacher guided focus. A student should ask a teacher what to focus on a day or two before an exam. As a teacher sees the student’s desire and willingness to work hard, most will reciprocate.

A teacher who says “everything is important” indicates either the test hasn’t been made, or an unwillingness to help. This problem is with the teacher, not the student.

Play smarter, not harder. Rely on flashcards.

* Study tip No. 4: Negotiate. When a student truly believes he deserves a better grade, he should meet with the teacher. A teacher is likely to reconsider a contested grade if the student can make a case, sticks to his principles and defends his position. Even if the grade is not adjusted, the student has gained negotiation experience.

In the long run, the student’s perseverance will likely tip the scales in his favor.

Not every tip is going to have the same impact on a student’s individual approach to the art of studying. Have patience. Your daughter has many years of school ahead of her to customize her approach and refine her technique to illustrate her unique strengths.

Michelangelo, unlike your daughter, was not as fortunate to have the support of his mother during his teenage years. She passed when he was 6.

By working together as a team, imagine how you and your daughter will feel as her life’s canvas hangs on display and wins Best In Show.