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Darien High School students break out study habits in time for finals

Published 12:11 pm, Friday, June 8, 2012

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  • Darien High School Sophomores Samantha Stine and Brittany Henry quiz each other at the Darien Library just a few days before final exams begin, Tuesday, June 5, 2012. Darien, Conn. Photo: Thomas Michael
    Darien High School Sophomores Samantha Stine and Brittany Henry quiz each other at the Darien Library just a few days before final exams begin, Tuesday, June 5, 2012. Darien, Conn. Photo: Thomas Michael

 

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A few days days before Darien High School began its final exams on Tuesday, students were scattered throughout the Darien Library.

Sophomores Samantha Stine and Brittany Henry sat at a small table on the lower level of the building Tuesday night, where they were studying for a chemistry final.

"The only exams I have to go in and take a test for are chemistry, French and math," Stine said, as she studied from a review packet containing 70 to 80 practice problems.

"The packets are actually really helpful," she said. "We're definitely study guide people."

Henry agreed.

"The teachers give us enough to work with so we're not totally stranded."

Stine said she and Henry work well together.

"We motivate each other, so we're good study partners," Stine said.

Henry said library is a good place to review.

"It's a nice structured area where you can sit down and work," she said.

The library extended its hours for students studying for finals. It stayed open until 10:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and will also be open late Sunday and Monday.

"We were here for six hours (Monday), right after school until it closed at nine," Stine said, adding they would be there all day Wednesday.

Stine and Henry said they had several tests to study for and a project to prepare before studying for finals.

Charlene Riordan, a Latin and French teacher, was skeptical about students who do last-minute studying.

"It's impossible to study for exams if you haven't studied the whole year," said Riordan, who is happy this year's final exams are split by the weekend. Last year, she recalled, there were four days of testing.

"On the fourth day the kids were burned out, they had had it, and teachers were tired of grading," she said. "Two days and then a weekend gives everyone time to ponder, to get our heads squared away."

She said this is something that should be taken into further consideration.

"A time frame like that is advantageous for students and teachers," she said.

Henry agreed.

"I like having a weekend in between, because that gives us a break," she said.

Sophomores Matthew Coe and Jack Sparkman were also at the library Tuesday night to help each other prepare for a world studies exam.

Coe, who said he began reviewing for exams on Sunday, said he uses resources like old class notes and quizzes to help him study.

"I like being able to study with other people," Coe said. "I like being able to quiz people."

Sparkman, who started studying on Saturday, said he normally works independently.

Freshman Jessica De Rocco, like Sparkman, also studies independently and uses various techniques to be efficient.

"I find when I type things out or write things out I memorize them better," De Rocco said. She said she also listens to music when she studies and uses review packets.

"I can pretty much tell myself to study and I will," she said. "But if I feel like I haven't accomplished what I wanted to I'll be [disappointed]."

De Rocco said she's also a procrastinator.

"What generally distracts me when I'm studying is Facebook and YouTube, or texting, too, because, if my friends text me or talk to me on Facebook, I end up spending like an hour talking to them," she said.

"Some students figure out study habits early on, organizing labs, keeping notes," freshman biology teacher Sean Otterspoor said. "Other students cram all their stuff into their backpacks."

Come exam time, he said, "They unravel [each page] piece by piece and hope through osmosis that the stuff will just diffuse into their heads while sleeping with their textbook."

Otterspoor said biology teachers use techniques to help force freshman into studying two chapters a night.

"It helps expose them to the same style of multiple choice questions that are on the exam," Otterspoor said. "During the year, different teachers use different multiple choice questions on their tests, and the quizzes help make it standard."

He added freshman biology teachers hold six review sessions in the weeks leading up to final exams.

Bruce Clarke, who teaches several history classes, said he also holds review sessions.

"We work through packets of material together and refresh on areas that they may have forgotten about," Clarke said. "It's kind of like a mini-lecture and games rolled up into one. I also have jeopardy games made up for certain classes."

Physics teacher Dan Record, who mainly teaches upperclassmen, thinks students need to learn how to prepare for exams on their own, a model of the college experience, he said.

"In my experience, college professors say, `Here's the final exam,'" Record said. "There's no study guide. You have your textbook and your notes and that's it. If a kid isn't prepared for that, they may be in a bad position when they arrive in that college environment."

Record said he gives suggestions to students on how to study, but they usually are ignored.

Senior Lexy Ashburne said she was motivated by college to do well on exams throughout her time at Darien High School. Although her exam schedule was busy in the past, she said this year she was exempt from most of her exams due to high grades.

"Friday I have math, but I got exempt from math, and I have Spanish, which I also got exempt from," Ashburne said. "For Monday, I would have to go in for chorus, which I got exempt from."

Ashburne has an AP English final exam on Tuesday, which is different from one she took in May. She also has to present a website for her web design class.

"All the work to get to that point, to have the `A' to get exempt, that was stressful," she said.

She said she will study secondary education at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., in the fall.

"I've always wanted to go to college for the longest time," she said. "And I knew if I always studied for finals, I would be able to go wherever I wanted."

She added, "It's also the fact that I wanted to put something on my transcript that genuinely showed how hard I worked."

Alice Wang contributed to this report.

tmichael@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4407; www.twitter.com/tmichael89