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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

Upcoming exams have put an added weight on every students’ shoulders

Rowan Szpieg
If only we got extra credit for tears on our paper.

Math teacher Rebecca Lipke has observed that the key to success when exam time comes is simple: organization.

Being almost halfway through her twenty-seventh teaching year—facing almost every scenario in the process—has provided years of experience on how students should prioritize their planning steps for approaching exams.

Her specific arrangements include a discussion overview of exams as far back as Thanksgiving break. It gives time for the schedule to be strengthened and reinforced in the student’s minds; allowing mental preparations to commence. 

“I find that if you feel organized going into it, it helps you feel less stressed,” Lipke said. “Although it might be a little early to actually start studying, I encourage kids to get organized for their classes: if you haven’t been, organize your notebooks or binders to put stuff in order just to get things set; when you are ready to study and review, you at least are organized.”

Lipke’s proficiency in her independent approach to exam preparation has undoubtedly been modified and improved throughout her career; recognizing that the space between Thanksgiving break and Christmas is seen as crunch time: students are learning the last slivers of information that will appear on their test, and every open moment is ideally used for review. Her awareness of this has pushed her to distribute exam review packets immediately after Thanksgiving. 

Giving plenty of study time is seen as crucial to a student’s success on big tests, and when there’s downtime before and after school breaks, Lipke has a very firm belief that every moment in school should be spent in an efficient manner that minimizes the workload at home. When exams arrive “nobody should really be super stressed out” if they’ve used their additional time in a beneficial manner.

“It’s really possible to not have hours of homework every day,” Lipke said. “I mean, it’s going to happen: it’s high school. But, my own kids are multi-sport athletes and sometimes have two or three practices a night; they don’t have time to do all that, so they’ve had to master the art of every free moment, every ten extra minutes in a class, they pull out homework for another class and do it.”

Junior Gabby Thompson, as a dedicated player in many different sports—currently devoting time to lacrosse pre-season routines—has learned how to master her study skills and manage her time in a way that proves most productive for her: The Pomodoro Technique is her preferred method when preparing to spend extended amounts of time reviewing material. Consisting of twenty-five studying minutes fragmented by ten break minutes, this system supplies a rewarding conclusion as she isn’t left bored or too exhausted by the time she finishes. 

A good night of rest is also critical for Gabby’s success as she finds it difficult to focus without the proper sleep time. The thing she has trouble with, however, is determining the length of review periods to assign to each class. Being the most wary about her AP World History (WHAP) exam has her reconsidering the time she wants to spend studying for it. Although she usually has a plan of action, it is always subject to change.

“For exams, typically I will set aside about an hour or so for every subject,” Gabby said. “I try to prioritize my first and second hours because those are the first exams, so I’ll purposefully set aside time just for those.”

Being enrolled in AP Environmental Science (APES) also places some additional tension on Gabby’s schedule when midterms for that class occur. Other courses, including WHAP, create variety by creating mid-semester exams, but others generate diversity purely from the distinctiveness of the test itself. 

They get to see that the meaning of their work as a whole isn’t usually just within one book, it’s in a lot of pieces of literature.

— Lisa Penninga

Lisa Penninga’s AP Literature and Composition class has implemented an exam consisting of three major components.

The first thing they focus on—which has been a fixation a majority of the semester—is writing an analytical thesis; however, what makes it more attainable for students is the different selection of prompts to write about. Their grade for this section is then determined by their option to submit their three finest pieces.

The second part is executing a Socratic Seminar Circle that discusses Penninga’s “Fab Five in AP Literature:” characterization, setting, point of view, structure, and figurative language. Questions are asked about each, allowing people to comment when comfortable, and students are to “Shout Out” good points made by three of their peers. So not only are they graded for listening, they are graded for voicing their opinions as well.

The final section of the exam, and Penninga’s favorite activity, is the assignment to create a t-shirt that recognizes themes showcased in writing pieces they looked at throughout the semester.

“On the actual exam day, they present their t-shirt,” Penninga said. “It’s really fun because they’re all wearing shirts that celebrate foil characters, themes, or archetypes. They get to see that the meaning of their work as a whole isn’t usually just within one book, it’s in a lot of pieces of literature.”

Having eighteen years in an educational career has fueled a change in perspective when concerning treatment toward exams. A single test counting for fifteen percent of an overall grade can, in the end, make or break the semester for a student.

Realizing this, Penninga chose to tackle this unique approach to exams that, especially for English, covers a majority of the areas that comprise her class; not only is it a test of their knowledge, but it’s also an effectual halfway point in the year that truly shows the students how much they’ve learned.

“Early on, we as an English department only did an essay,” Penninga said, “and sometimes I think that’s not the best measure of an English student. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and I think to be able to do [the exam] in this trio works really well because it showcases the whole English student, not just one component.”

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About the Contributor
Rowan Szpieg, Staff Writer
Rowan is entering her first year on The Central Trend as a junior writer. Her love of writing developed in recent years through expressive poetry. Although it is a hobby that assumes a bit of her time already, when she's not sitting back with a new writing piece on her computer, you can find her playing her guitar. Any spare time she has that's not occupied with family or friends is spent learning to play new songs. She also loves to spend her nights under the stars around a bonfire in the summer and laughing too much playing board games in the winter. Rowan is always up for a movie night as a way to share her interest in film. When she's not watching a movie, she has Friends playing in the background on every occasion.   Comfort movie: The Proposal Favorite time of the year: When Christmas music starts to play Favorite book: Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom Favorite song to play on guitar: Don't Think Twice, It's All Right by Bob Dylan Has she shortened her watchlist of movies? Not at all! It's still over 300

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