Elementary to Middle School Transition – Study Strategies

The transition from elementary school to middle or high school can be a frightening experience for many students. After all, for many children, this is the first time they will be moving from one class to another without a teacher or chaperone. Students will learn from a variety of teachers with different specialties and teaching techniques. Also, they will mingle with many students instead of their small classroom cohort.

However, one of the most difficult transitions for many students making the leap to the middle school level is test preparation. Parents often ask, “How should my child study for a test?” hoping that there is a secret strategy that will ensure their child’s success on tests. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all technique when it comes to test preparation. With that said, here are some helpful ideas that can ease your child’s stress level (and yours too) and hopefully increase her overall performance.

Have a plan and get organized

Chances are your child will have homework in almost every subject throughout a given week. Help your son create a calendar where he can record homework due dates as well as all of her extracurricular activities. This will give the student the opportunity to see how many days she has to prepare for an upcoming test. It will also be valuable as the child will see the other tasks and activities that she needs to do in addition to having to prepare for tests. Also, this will help you and your child see if he will have multiple tests on any given day.

Even if your child has trouble remembering their homework or is in the habit of leaving their homework notebook at school, most schools have a homework and assignment list online and available to parents and guardians. Become familiar with your child’s school homework page so you can help him fill her calendar with all the important information.

Keep in mind that high school students are notorious procrastinators. If they see on Monday that a teacher has a test scheduled for Friday, then they think they don’t have to prepare for that test until Thursday night. Cramming doesn’t work! With the jump to the high school level, the amount of information a student receives increases exponentially and there is too much information to cram the night before a test. Try to help your child break homework into manageable time periods when it comes to studying. It’s much easier and less stressful to study for an hour a day for three days than it is to try to study for three hours the night before a test. Therefore, have your child mark the days leading up to the test date on her calendar to start preparing for the test at least two to three days before the test.

Encourage them to “find” time on your own

One of the biggest alibis high school students have for poor test performance is that they didn’t have time to study for the test. It is true that most children are involved in multiple activities both in and out of school, all of which require a significant time commitment. However, there are times throughout the day that students may find to review material. This can happen in a study hall, a few minutes after finishing lunch, or in the car on the way to soccer practice. The goal is to encourage your child to review the material as often as possible. While I understand that this is easier said than done, ten minutes here and there can make a difference. Repetition of main concepts is key.

Essay develops talent

It doesn’t matter if your child is trying to learn a new musical number for the piano, trying to memorize lines for the next school play, working on their penalty kick, or trying to throw the perfect curveball, repetition is always key. Many times students think because they reread the chapter the night before the exam that they have “studied” and are prepared. They need to familiarize themselves with the material on an ongoing basis. No matter the subject, the more students study the material, the better their chances of success. After all, we don’t expect them to master a piece of music after playing it just once, so why would we expect the same when it comes to school content?

Find the method that works best for your child

There are many different ways a student can study for an exam, such as:


Rereading the text

Taking practice tests from the textbook

Creating your own study guide

Rewriting your class notes

Have someone else question you

Find practice quizzes online

All of these are viable strategies for preparing for tests, but the key point here is to have the child find the strategy that works best for them. This will take some time to rinse off. Each child learns differently, and each must find the path (or paths) that gives them the best chance of success. A child’s preferred method may be one of the strategies listed above, or it may be a combination of the strategies, or it may be a strategy not even listed. It does not matter which strategy the student chooses, as long as it works consistently and is sustainable. Encourage your child to play around with different strategies to find the methods that work best for her learning style. And if her son doesn’t get the results she wants, don’t be afraid to encourage him to experiment with different methods. She continues to experiment until he finds the only method that produces the desired results. After all, she will need to carry the proper study skills with her well beyond the high school level. The goal here is to help your child feel confident in her ability to prepare for a test on her own when he enters high school.

And of course the stakes only get higher from there.

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