Example 2: The Test-ReTest Preparation

Test-ReTest Preparation (TRTP) is a powerful way of preparing for exams.  Unlike the Little Bit Each Day method explained previously, TRTP will not be as obviously effective for final papers or projects.  However, it can still be used, and it is especially effective for preparing for exams (book your Anaheim online tutor for finals).

TRTP involves the memory principle of retrieval.  This is where information stored in long-term memory is “retrieved,” or remembered when it is needed.  Retrieval is one of the main things that is being tested when you take an exam: can you retrieve the information you learned in class in order to answer questions?  TRTP recognizes this and has you essentially do trial runs of your real test to train your retrieval of this information and make sure you will be able to implement it during the exam.

To do this, you need access to practice tests, old tests/quizzes, or you need to make your own with questions you come up with.  You then pretend that the practice test that you are taking is the real test. Give yourself a time limit and answer all of the questions without looking up any answers.  When you’re done, check your answers and see what you got wrong. Then, you take the test again.

You can retake it right away, or the next day, or even later.  The important part is that you continue to retake it until you can answer every question correctly.  Once you can do this, you move on to another practice test and implement the same procedure. 

Often, you will have to make these “tests” on your own.  However, they don’t have to be long, and they don’t have to be perfect.  For many math and science classes, it can be useful just to reuse problems done in class or on homework that you no longer remember the answers to.  You can also slightly change numbers or word problems if you’re worried about remembering answers. For classes that require memorization or vocabulary, you can make your own vocabulary tests (including using online tools like Quizlet), make blank diagrams or charts to fill in, and make practice questions based on the definitions.

Making your tests is a powerful study tool in itself, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have practice material available.  If you study early enough, you can even send your self-created practice tests to your teacher to double-check your answers and set you on the right path.

While not as intuitive, you can also still implement TRTP principles for essays and projects.  For essays, write a rough draft or a rough paragraph that you are treating as practice. Then, revisit what you wrote later and pretend you are a teacher grading it.  Be as critical as possible, and use this as a way to make improvements. You can also have someone else look at it for you under the same critical lens. Giving yourself a grade doesn’t matter, and being too critical isn’t a problem -- as long as you are able to make a change that improves your essay.

The same holds for projects, though namely presentations.  Have someone else view your project or watch you present, and ask them to by a hypercritical teacher who is grading very harshly.  See what critiques they come up with, and see if you can make improvements to avoid them. You can also record yourself giving a presentation and review yourself the same way to make improvements.

Regardless of how exactly you implement it, TRTP is about practicing for the real grade.  If a test determines your grade, then practicing similar tests is the most specific way to prepare.  If a presentation is your grade, then presenting is the most specific way to prepare. Try to emulate what you will be graded on as closely as you can, and practice that emulation.

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Michael C. is currently an online private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerd in Irvine and Anaheim.