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How to Help Your Kid Study for a Test

Science & Social Studies

Go "old school." Flash cards are a tried-and-true way to help kids remember complex facts. Shelly Walker of Los Angeles has her daughter Lauren write key words or concepts on the front of colorful index cards, and jot definitions on the back. After Lauren studies the cards, her mom quizzes her. Lauren keeps the correctly answered cards in a pile, while Mom "wins" the ones she missed. Lauren's goal is to win all the cards and the right to brag loudly!

Make up mnemonics. Science teacher Geisen is a huge fan of acronyms (words formed by using the first letter of each word in a list) and phrases to help kids memorize long lists of formulas, planets, animals, and more. Have your child create his own silly ones (humor boosts memory!) or search online for some classics like these:

  • The Great Lakes: HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior)

  • Taxonomic Order: King Philip Came Over For Good Soup (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species)

  • The order of operations recommended for solving a complicated math problem: "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally"= PEMDAS (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication/Division, Addition/Subtraction)

Get artsy. Geisen encourages students to draw simple diagrams of tough concepts or scientific processes such as the cycle of water evaporation. Silly pictures also help them remember challenging vocabulary words. Example: When a kid is trying to remember the meanings of "dominant" and "recessive" in genetics, she could draw a picture of a big dog barking at a tiny dog. The name on the big dog's collar could be "Dom" and the little one could be "Recess."

Embrace your inner American Idol. Admit it: You still remember most of the Preamble to the Constitution or the purpose of conjunctions, thanks to the "Schoolhouse Rock" songs from Saturday-morning cartoons. "Tunes and rhythm seem to cement new information into memory unlike anything else," says Sylvan's Bavaria. Encourage your child to put fact lists -- like the names of U.S. presidents in date order -- to a familiar song like "Pop Goes the Weasel."

Play online. Many textbooks offer online practice tests your child can access from home. Kids love having an excuse to play computer games, and test scoring is immediate, so your child can instantly see where he needs to study more. Another bonus: Practice tests often foreshadow the actual exam.