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Matt Peal's Four Keys to Exam Preparation
Matt Peal, Head of Upper School

In his November 2023 message to upper school parents, Clark Family Head of Upper School Matt Peal shared the following tips for helping students prepare for the upcoming exams. He followed up this message with a panel discussion for parents with learning specialists and counselors.

As we head into this critical time of the school year, I wanted to send along some tips and tricks that I have found helpful when it comes to preparing for exams. These are all things I will be encouraging our students to do, and it might be beneficial if they hear these things from you as well.

  • First and foremost, I cannot stress enough the importance of being in school, attentive in class, and visiting with teachers outside of class time (office hours, in the Academic Enrichment Center, and Flex periods, for example). These access points are some of the hallmarks of independent schools, and certainly ESD, and the impact cannot be quantified.
  • Secondly, far too often, we see students put off work until the last minute. This results in "cramming" at best and, at worst, a potential honor code violation. To avoid this, I strongly encourage students to spend ten to fifteen minutes per class each night reviewing their notes from that day's class. I would even recommend they synthesize and rewrite their notes nightly, as we know this is one of the best ways to create long-term memory.
  • Additionally, I strongly encourage students to "chunk" their study time. Instead of trying to "power through" 2-3 hours of studying at one time, it is far more beneficial to have repeated cycles of 20-30 minutes of intentional, focused study blocks followed by 5-10-minute breaks. The act of stepping away requires us to practice retrieval when we return, which is also vital to developing retention.
  • Finally, take the opportunity to quiz your kiddos. We know that taking smaller, thoughtful, low-stakes (read: without a grade) assessments of our knowledge helps reinforce mastery of the material.

Upper school December exams begin December 18, 2023. For additional resources, please reach out to advisors and our learning support team.