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Education Opinion

The Other Test Prep: Final Exam Review

By David Ginsburg — May 30, 2014 1 min read
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NOTE: This is a reprint of a post originally published on this blog June 11, 2012.

Many people, including me, decry test prep for standardized tests. But what about other tests? I bring this up now because test prep is as common this time of year as it is in the weeks leading up to standardized tests. No enrichment or extension activities, and no new material. Just sneak previews of final exams, and opportunities for students to prepare for them using study guides--provided by their teachers, of course. (Many teachers spend more time preparing for test prep than students spend preparing for tests.)

Final exam prep is another example of schools setting students up for post-secondary failure. Slack off in college or at work, and it’s bound to bite you in the butt. Few professors or bosses help slackers catch up after they’ve blown off class or slept on the job. But coasting all year has no consequence for many kids, thanks to final exam prep (and schools’ other indulgences such as accepting late assignments--and even giving kids time to do them during class).

I spent lots of time and effort on final exam prep until I realized what a disservice this is to students. A disservice to students who slack off because it allows them to “earn” passing grades when they deserve to fail, and denies them the chance to learn from failure. And a disservice to studious students who are less motivated to be studious in the future.

So, what should you do to help students prepare for final exams? Nothing. You prepared them all year--assuming the exam is aligned with your curriculum, and you were efficient with formative assessment. Let students get the grades they deserve on final exams, and devote year-end class time to projects or other student-centered activities rather than test prep.

Success in college and the workplace requires conscientiousness all the time, not just when a test is coming up or a promotion is on the line. And it’s much better for students to get this message during their K-12 years than afterward. But they’ll never get this message as long as schools keep enabling students’ self-defeating behavior through practices like final exam review sessions.

Image provided by GECC, LLC with permission.

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