Internet-based educational tools that make learning fun are aplenty, but when it’s crunch time, you’ll need something that gets the job done, and fast. We’ve shortlisted six apps and web sites with features (or materials) that will help kids remember information, apply their knowledge, and seek last-minute assistance if necessary.
Do flashcards work? Some learning experts say they do, including science reporter Benedict Carey, who authored the study strategies bestseller “How We Learn.” In fact, he says self-testing is “one of the strongest study methods there is.” Flashcard sites and apps are becoming increasingly common, and one we’ve tried and liked is Quizlet, which you can use for free. It’s a web site (with a complementary app) that allows you to create sets of flashcards for personal study. Just as with physical flashcards, you will enter a term or phrase on one side of the card, and its accompanying definition on the other.
Flashcards are particularly useful for English—you can create cards for general vocabulary, idioms, collective nouns, and more. (Other language options are available too.) You can also make flashcards for scientific terms, and if you upgrade to a premium account, you can add images to your cards. If you’re short on time, simply browse other users’ flashcards to find and copy a set that is relevant to you. But Quizlet’s best feature by far is its ability to generate tests from flashcard sets, and you can choose from four test formats: Fill in the blanks, multiple choice, matching, or true/false. Having a mix of question types is also an option. Ambitious, independent learners will relish the opportunity to test—and retest—themselves, until they get that perfect score.
Why use the learner’s versions of dictionaries when time is short? We’ll let the definitions speak for themselves. For the word “intransigent,” here are three different definitions:
“Characterized by refusal to compromise or to abandon an extreme position or attitude.” (Merriam-Webster)
As children develop a greater interest in the English language, they can refer to more complete or complex dictionary definitions to understand the subtleties in meanings and variations between words. But if exams are looming and there are unfamiliar words to look up, learner’s dictionaries are the less intimidating option—they trim the fat and get straight to the point.
Diffen is a site that aims to help you compare anything. Most of its articles are “written substantially” by staff, but users are welcome to contribute and edit as well. Making comparisons (i.e. finding similarities and differences between two or more objects, concepts, or processes) is an effective way of processing information, and it also happens to be a key skill tested in primary school science. This makes Diffen’s science section a treasure trove for local students, with such articles as “Amphibian vs. Reptile,” “Mass vs. Weight,” and “Mould vs. Yeast.”
Each article begins with a summary of differences, followed by a comparison chart and a more detailed report. There is also citation information for each article, should students wish to quote Diffen in a school essay.
Committing information to memory is an integral part of exam preparations, but to ensure kids are exam-ready, they’ll have to plunge into tackling practice papers as soon as possible. Thankfully, gone are the days where parents would either collect papers from a friend (and blank the answers out) or buy them in bulk from sellers (although some parents find this more convenient). You can now download what you need, and for free!
Test Papers Free offers free test and exam papers from popular schools; follow them on Facebook for updates on new uploads. A1grade has free papers for download too, as well as a paid option that allows you to select papers and download them as a bundle. SG Test Paper is another free test paper site, and it also offers topic-based worksheets for English and Math (P4-6).
Snapask is a free mobile app where students can take a photo of their questions in order to get an online tutor’s help via text messaging. The app caters for primary school subjects all the way up to the A-levels, and you’ll be asked to specify your level when you sign up, to ensure you’re linked up with the appropriate pool of tutors. The average waiting time is said to be 33 seconds, and the tutors are local university students. (Follow Snapask to read their tutor profiles and education-related updates.) The app includes six credits, and each primary school question costs two credits; you can purchase additional credits when you run out. It’s available for Apple and Android devices.
Is music good for studying? It depends on what music you pick. A French university study found that students who listened to a one-hour lecture, where classical music was played in the background, scored higher in a quiz compared to students who heard no music. The researchers’ theory was that the classical music put students in an emotional state where they were more receptive to information. Another university study found that classical music reduced anxiety.
If you’re looking to add music to your child’s study routine, try Spotify. It’s available as a desktop application, on the web, and as a mobile app. A free version of Spotify is available, but if you prefer not to hear commercials, you’ll have to upgrade to the premium version for a monthly fee. Spotify and its users have already created numerous playlists for studying, and you can search for lists such as “Classical Music For Smart Kids” to get started. As a reward, you can let your child listen to his/her favourite music during break times, or look for fun educational songs together. “Here Comes Science” is a Grammy-nominated album by indie rock band They Might Be Giants, featuring catchy, fact-filled tracks such as “Meet The Elements” and “Photosynthesis.”