20 Aug

Horrible Result In Practice Test

My student got 2/21 for a test I had set myself. I found that she had difficulty in trying to remember several topics all at once and was confused to use which concept when doing certain questions. I think I should incorporate simpler questions to boost her confidence and go through 1 concept at a time in regards to setting more of my own tests for her, but not sure.

The question you should ask before changing your tests is “Was your test fair?” Just because the student did poorly in your test doesn’t mean that you should give her an easier test. Her school won’t be giving her easier tests to boost her confidence, and you don’t want to give her false expectations by setting a lower standard than her school so that she can feel good about herself.

It is actually really common that students who seem to know their work after some initial tutoring perform below expectations in the next test. Overconfidence is an issue; students feel confident because they know their work better than before but still have no clue about revision and exam preparation. As you mention, the skill of recalling multiple topics for one test is an important one. Her poor performance may be an indication of poor exam preparation strategies OR poor exam technique itself.

While it is important to mind her confidence, this is ultimately best done by making her a successful student. Above all, this means that she has to take proactive approach at improving her maths knowledge AND her learning skills. It is likely that her poor performance is a consequence of lacking in both.

Here are some suggestions:

  • First determine if the test was fair, which it probably was.
  • Discuss with her why she performed poorly. What did she do to prepare? Did she do overviews of chapters to be in the test? Did she make notes? Did she do practice tests?
  • Spend some time boosting her confidence by pointing out the ways she has improved despite the poor test result.
  • Use this poor result as proof that comprehension and “knowing stuff” isn’t enough to do well in a test. She needs consistent revision and exam preparation strategies, study habits etc.
  • Chose a couple of things to focus on immediately. Recalling multiple topics at once should probably be one of those skills.
  • Give her tutor homework like doing chapter reviews and doing 2-3 questions from each exercise over several chapters etc
  • Perhaps take her through test preparation process for 1-2 weeks and then get her to redo that exam so she can perform much better the second time (after preparing properly). This can be a very motivating goal for her – to redo that test and perform well.
  • Another consideration is the question of how she learned the topics in that test in the first place. Did she just memorize the processes or take effort to understand why the formulas work. Did she just rely on her textbook or did she also make her own notes to instil those concepts. Did she ever do any revision at all after finishing those topics?
  • If she truly ever understood all the concepts, how can she possibly mix up which concept to use with which question? It sounds like she may be a student who Seeks Answers instead of a student who Seeks Understanding?
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