Write an essay where you tell us what test preparation practices work best for you and why.

If I had a nickel for every time a friend asked “How are you studying for this test?” I could pay my college tuition. Depending on the class, I often study flashcards, review past quizzes, or stare at my notes, but my favorite test preparation is the “cheat sheet”. When a teacher allows a cheat sheet, it means that students can take a note card and use whatever they write on it during the test. This usually entails students cramming as much information as possible onto this small piece of paper. However, most of my classes don’t allow for cheat sheets, yet I still choose to create them to study.
The unique aspect of writing all your knowledge on a note card is that you inherently have limited space. You can’t fit everything. This prioritizes two types of information- What is most important and what you’re likely to forget. Many of my peers study the miniscule details of a lesson, while forgetting the key points and learning targets. Others spend hours completing practice problems of which they can do in their sleep, only to be caught off guard when a question is not a carbon copy of the ones they breezed through. Done correctly, the cheat sheet negates both those possibilities, saving time from completing busy work of topics you already know, while honing in on your weak spots and important facts.
Another characteristic of cheat sheets is how we shorthand our notes. Writing down a lengthy definition for every term costs precious space, so one method to solve this is the fabled “put it in your own words”. Boil down a description to a handful of words and you can jot down every term on the list. This gets you physically writing down the information while forcing you to understand the content in order to paraphrase it.
I believe that teachers who allow cheat sheets secretly are tricking students into studying because by knowing what you need to write and being able to write everything you know, you’re already prepared for the test, with or without a cheat sheet.

Claire from Minnesota
High School Senior
Eagan High School