We often get requests for executive function help around exams. Executive functions are the cognitive processes that help people control their behaviour (emotional regulation, initiation, impulse control) and reach their goals (planning, time management, organization, self monitoring). Though there are some strategies for studying and test taking that can be learned during crunch time, there are many other ways to be proactive! Here are a few tips for starting the year off.
- Choose your note holder. Do you prefer one binder with dividers for each subject so that everything is in one place (pick a large binder with a zipper)? Do you prefer to separate your subjects individually or by your schedule (morning vs afternoon binders)? This may take some trial and error. Binders are also not the only choice. Accordion folders work well for students who struggle with hole punching, binder rings, and processes that are more than one step.
- Date your papers! Most students automatically write their name on every paper they receive. Practice until it’s a habit to also write the date on those pages, this will make organizing your note holder more efficient. In addition, this helps to know when you can recycle those papers.
- How will you remember your homework? Some schools provide agendas, some don’t. There are so many options for paper planners and apps to help keep important dates and deadlines organized. Again, this is a personal decision, so you may need to try out a few options. The general rule is to do something everyday for 3 weeks before it becomes a habit. If you consistently use an app for your homework throughout September and still forget deadlines, maybe it’s time to switch back to paper.
- Older students should experiment with different forms of notetaking. Teachers will often tell you the important concepts of a lesson. On handouts, try highlighters to make these main ideas stand out. When handwriting or typing notes, try the two column method (right side for detailed notes, left side for main ideas and questions) or cornell notes. Both of these methods make reviewing your notes more of an active process and will save you time before exams!
- Choose to take responsibility for your learning. This is the hardest one. It is not the teachers responsibility to fill you in on what you missed while you were away, you have to ask. It is not your parent’s job to remind you that you have football every Thursday so you should study for your Friday test earlier in the week. (Although asking your parents for a reminder or setting an alarm are good strategies!) These adults are here to help guide you and be a support system; however, only you can take the time needed to learn and review the concepts you are being taught and tested on.