How Homework Helps
Homework and Test Preparation
Like athletes maintaining their conditioning, students preparing for entrance exams need to put in study time on a regular basis. How much time depends on every student’s goals and schedules; this post will focus on how students can improve the lasting impact of their study sessions.
Let’s start by differentiating between learning and practice. Learning, which involves introducing and explaining new and unfamiliar concepts, takes place during tutoring and classroom sessions. Practice, the reinforcement of such new information, takes place at home. This is the goal of homework.
Here are three ideas to consider when planning homework sessions.
1. Remind yourself what you’ve learned. It takes more than one lesson or homework session to master any concept. Instead of having a single “Right Triangle” homework session, refer back to what you’ve learned about 30-60-90 and 45-45-90 triangles throughout your prep. If you’ve first seen Right Triangles on January 9, you’ll need to do Right Triangle homework problems not only the week of January 9, but also throughout January and February. After you’ve done the content homework in your Bespoke book, you can do problems that test the same content in your test’s Official Guide.
2. Test yourself. Looking at information on the written page is less effective at increasing long-term mastery than demanding the brain to recite something it’s learned. Part of this is accomplished every time you do a homework problem – another way to increase understanding is to recite strategies and properties you’ve learned out loud: “In Identifying Sentence Error questions, comparisons must be both logical and parallel;” “When reading a Reading Comprehension passage for the first time, identify Main Idea and author’s point of view.” If you can recite the concept, you’ll use it on Test Day.
3. Mix it up. Do an exam practice section, where different concepts are tested side-by-side. On Test Day, you’ll be ready for that subject diversity.
Great athletes know that a little bit of practice every day is better than a marathon session once a week. As best you can, work test-prep into your daily routine!
This blog post owes its inspiration to the article “The Trouble With Homework,” written by Annie Murphy Paul and appearing in the New York Times on September 10, 2011. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/11/opinion/sunday/quality-homework-a-smart-idea.html?pagewanted=all).