Study Skills: How to Study for Tests in High School

We are sharing a series on study skills. This week: How to study for tests in high school.

Study Skills: How to Study for Tests in High School

Many homeschool high schoolers are facing serious tests for the first time in their educational careers. After all, many of us spend the earlier years of their education concentrating on building a love of learning. I know in my family, we always felt that the pressure of high school academics can wait until high school!

Then high school comes and it is time to transition into more serious education. (Hopefully, they have things they still love to learn, even though there are some serious or even boring credits they must earn.) One of the more serious parts of earning high school credits is taking tests as part of their course grade.

While we do not want to induce anxiety in our teens by getting all stressed out about test grades, we do need to teach our teens how to study for tests. If they know how to study for tests, they can test for success! (BTW- they also need to know the skills of how to take tests, so check out this post.)

Here are some tips on how to study for tests in high school

Of course, there’s not ONE right way to prepare for tests, but here are some basics to get your teens started. They can adapt the ideas to their personalities and needs.

Time management: Use a syllabus and planner

Teens benefit from learning to manage their time, especially when planning study times. I teach my teens to use their syllabi to find test dates. Then I have them record those dates on a planner. Next, they add a “start studying date” on the planner either a week or two ahead (according to how difficult they find a course).

Scheduling Backwards
Click image for full description.

By choosing a start date for studying, they can study in chunks over days, rather than cramming for exams. They will actually learn the material better and remember more easily when they get to their tests. Then they can use “Scheduling Backwards” on their study time.

When studying turn off electronic distractions

Every time a teen stops to check a social media post, text, discord, etc, it takes a few minutes to get back on task. They can check these things during their hourly break (seen next section). Brains really do not multitask.

Take a break every hour or forty-five minutes

For every hour of study time, it is wise to get up and move around for five to fifteen minutes. Moving around helps burn off some stress hormones. It also helps teens concentrate better when they get back to the books.

Protein and oxygen for good brainwork

Protein snacks and a session of deep breathing periodically will help the brain work better. Protein helps supply brain cells with energy. Oxygen helps the brain cells work better and also reduces stress hormone levels. Here is the deep-breathing exercise I taught my teens- it is called progressive relaxation.


There are so many kinds of things teens can review:

  • Notes from class
    • This is especially things about which the teacher said, “this is important”. That is because, if a teacher actually says something is important, they believe it is important enough to test it.
  • Textbook chapter questions
  • Chapter titles, section titles, definitions and highlighted material
  • Study packets, if provided

Make a practice quiz

Create flashcards for key information that needs to be memorized, such as:

  • Definitions
  • Formulas
  • Important quotes
  • Or use an online tool, such as Quizlet

Creat connections

Sometimes it is easier to remember material if it connects to something in real life. If you are learning something, try to think about ways to use that information in life or ways that others you know use that information. When the brain makes these kinds of connections, the information wires into the brain more efficiently.

Study with a friend

  • If your teen is taking a course in co-op or group class, it is helpful to study together:
  • Review notes, study packets, and chapter questions together
  • Quiz each other verbally, with flashcards, or create practice quizzes

At the end of each study session review with peppermint

This might sound goofy, but when teens pop a peppermint in their mouths during a final review for the day, they are giving their brain a trick for success. Right before they get to their test, they can pop a peppermint in their mouth. The brain associates peppermint with review of material. Therefore, the brain believes it is time to retrieve information!

Read over notes or study materials in the morning before the test

This reactivates those neural pathways in the brain so that information retrieval works better. Also, do a little deep breathing!

The cool thing about learning how to study for tests is that these skills will work in college or for vocational-training tests. So, give your teens a hand with some helpful study skills.

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Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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