In Depth


Don’t shortchange your studying, warn Academic Support Specialists Deborah Olander and Patricia Davison. “Many students do not form a study plan or organize their materials effectively,” said Olander. Failure to plan ahead can result in students losing sight of the larger context of the course while only zeroing in on details, according to Davison. The majority of students at Andover, however, have developed successful study skills and strategies, said Olander. Davison said, “Given the number of students who make honor roll, a lot of kids must be doing something right.” 57 percent of students were on the honor roll last spring term. Bowen Qiu ’09, a tutor in Science Study Center, said that he concentrates on studying for one or two finals at a time but does not make a formal study plan. Mathew Kelley ’10 said, “I always organize myself over [Thanksgiving] break. I organize my flashcards and notes and start studying… Usually I will wait until the weekend before [exams] to [actively] study.” Olander said that “some students do not test whether they can work independently in an exam setting.” Students should go beyond the level of understanding the material to mastering the material, according to Davison. “Students need to be able to develop strategies to work through problems autonomously, without any aids,” she said. Students often forget about the mental aspect of test-taking, Olander said. Students that convince themselves that the exam will be difficult or long are less likely to perform well, according to Olander. Kelley said that he usually tries to stay calm before his finals because he sees his friends become very stressed. Charlotte Cleveland ’11 said that she gets nervous before some finals. “Sciences are especially stressful for me. Half an hour before the exam, I’m always freaking out.” The Academic Support Center (ASC) breaks down exam preparation into four parts: scheduling study time, organizing notes, active studying and pre-exam preparation. Olander said that most students spend plenty of time actively studying for exams but sometimes neglect the other steps of the study process. Pre-exam preparation includes getting enough sleep and eating well during the entire span of assessments. Qiu said, “Sleep is always better [than staying up]. I usually aim for eight to nine hours during exam week.” Kelley said that he never studies for finals past 9 p.m. and that he always gets nine or more hours of sleep during exam weeks. The most important study habit for students is to start early and form a comprehensive plan, said Olander. The ASC recommends that students start studying at least three days before each exam. Davison said that the ASC also works individually with students who are struggling in their classes or with time management in general. Through the Student Alert System, the ASC is notified of “red flag” students who are struggling in one or more classes. The Dean of Studies office also provides a list of students who are just outside of the “danger zone.” The ASC works with both groups of students to develop individualized study plans for final exams. Many students also utilize the science, math and language study centers on campus for homework or studying help. Cleveland said, “I come to Science Study Center all the time. The tutors really help you and explain the concepts, rather than just giving you the answer, which usually happens during Conference Period.” Although the ASC does not provide subject-specific help during exam week, Olander said that teachers are usually a good source of help for students who have questions about the class material. Qiu said, “I haven’t ever had many teacher review sessions. I went to one last winter, which was helpful because I was struggling in the course. The helpfulness really depends on how you are doing in the class.” Kelley said, “I have never had one of my teachers offer a review session. I always get old finals, though, which are always very helpful, especially in science.” Cleveland said that she had never received an old final or study guide until this term. Qiu said that his teachers supplied a lot of study sheets last year, at the AP level, but beyond that, most students were expected to review the material independently. In early November, all Juniors attended a meeting with the ASC discussing exam week and effective study strategies. They received sample assessment schedules and study tips for the end of the term. Qiu said that he usually studies four to five hours per exam. According to Cleveland, she spends more time studying for science than any other subjects, and she spends the least time on languages.