Setting Students Up for Exam Success at KCS

Imagine you are sitting in a rowboat all by yourself. You’ve been told you need to get to an island in the middle of a lake. But there’s one small problem – you have no oars. So, you struggle to travel in the water, splash aimlessly, and ultimately end up frustrated with your goal still out of reach. Having the right tools can make all the difference in feeling prepared and in control of working toward our goals. This was just one analogy shared during out exam preparation sessions with Study Spot, one of our many learning partners, this fall.

At KCS, we want to ensure that we have done everything possible to set our students up for success. This means we don’t just teach students what will be on an exam – we also teach them how to prepare for an exam.

It begins by embedding backwards planning into our grade 6-8 program as a way to build and develop exam preparation skills long before anyone sits down to write an exam. This year it also began by having the grade 6 and 7 students work with one of Study Spot’s academic coaches, where students and parents learned that preparing for a big test such as an exam begins with establishing study and organization routines that stick.

During these coaching sessions, the students are introduced to many exam prep strategies, such as making a plan, sticking to a schedule, self-testing, and maximizing the “spacing effect” (the phenomenon whereby information is remembered longer when studying is spaced out over time). They also talk about the importance of work/life management, the importance of sleep, and managing screens and distractions. Finally, they are provided with a wealth of planning materials, including study schedule templates, an action priority matrix, weekly planners, and guides to the pros and cons of different visual organizers and information capturing tools. (FYI – all of these materials are available for download on the Parenting Resource tile on the KCS website.)

Continued throughout the year, our teachers design their program in a thoughtful and intentional manner, as we know that it takes careful planning to teach kids how to thrive at school and in life. Our students will be writing exams throughout high school and university, so we know that now is the time to teach them these essential study skills and organizational habits. And even though exams aren’t a regular part of adult life, those skills and habits carry over in different ways. Exams teach you to be organized, deal with pressure, persist, ask for help, identify key points, and sift through large amounts of information – all useful lessons for adulthood.

We know that even after all this preparation, exams can still be scary. But that’s okay. When we’re scared, we rethink our habits and apply them in ways that make us better equipped to handle the unexpected. Every time we try something new or challenging, we get better at handling it. The exam experience helps our students become more organized, pay closer attention to their homework, and learn to prepare for future challenges. Many students feel a great sense of accomplishment as exams wrap up.

Our hope is that by the time our students leave us for high school and beyond, they will have learned new habits and had many opportunities to put those habits to work. We also hope that because there will be elements of frustration and challenge along the way, they will also leave us with a deep and genuine sense of empowerment and confidence. In the end, we don’t want anyone to feel stranded in a rowboat with no oars. We want them to have the skills and tools they need to take their boat and navigate toward any destination they choose.

-Dr. Matina Mosun

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