Exam Review: The Woes and the Wins

Surviving end of year exam or EOC review can be a struggle.  Here are some tips, strategies, and resources to help improve your exam review! By: It's Not Rocket Science

Midterm and Final Exam review…this could potentially be one of the worst parts about being a secondary teacher.  This pressure is especially amplified if your exam is a state standardized End of Course exam.  Your principal is sending you “encouraging” emails but they actually come out more job- and life-threatening.  How on Earth are you supposed to keep students engaged, go over all of the material, and not want to poke your eyeballs out by the end of it all? 

I believe there has to be a balance and mixture of in your face content review and fun, yet focused, games.  I like to alternate days – do a lecture review M/W/F and play vocabulary review games on T/TH.   It’s also important that even when you are lecturing, you embed sample questions throughout where you can draw names and have students win candy or other small treats for correct answers.

So how do you lecture?  For some classes, like my biology students whose final exam is a standardized state EOC, I go through a PowerPoint review of main ideas.  Lower level students get a print out of slides to annotate, high level (honors) students have to fend for themselves for the note-taking.   Unfortunately so much weight is placed on EOC scores that I really have to be invested in the review time to make sure they get all that they need.  Physical science though is not an EOC, so I can put the review more onto the students.  I give them a study guide with practice questions that they get some class time to work on.  I give them points for completing it and then I draw student names to help me go over it in class.  I highly suggest if you have a class like this – whose exam is one you or your department writes and not the state – you give students more responsibility in the review process.  It will keep THEM more engaged and give YOU more of a break!  Really want to save yourself time and energy?  You can buy my exam reviews (plus exams!) from my TpT store by clicking the pictures below. 

NO PREP end of year exam pack!! Everything you need to review and administer biology midterm and final exams! Biology Midterm and Final Exam Review and Test Pack by: It's Not Rocket Science

NO PREP end of year exam pack!! Everything you need to review and administer physical science midterm and final exams! Physical Science Midterm and Final Exam Review and Test Pack by: It's Not Rocket Science

Now, what about the games?  A lot of my students do a GREAT job focusing on concepts they need to study or skills they need to acquire (like balancing an equation or completing a Punnett Square) before an exam, but they just HATE sitting down to memorize vocabulary.  This is a struggle too, because vocabulary is so critical in student success on exams.  Because of this, I combine the worst part to review (vocabulary) with the most fun type of review (GAMES!)  All of my review games are vocabulary centered.  I use two different variations to switch it up – a “Taboo” inspired review game and a “Password” inspired review game.

The “Taboo” inspired review game requires more work on the your part on the front end.  You have to cut out and laminate the vocabulary cards.  On each card is one vocabulary term and 4 taboo words.  One person from each team gets up front with a card.  They have to describe the vocabulary term to their teammates WITHOUT using the taboo words.  The 4th taboo word is a challenge word.  I let lower level students say this word, but not upper level.  This makes it easier to differentiate for different levels.  This game is fun because you can split the students up into small teams and have them play in small groups and you can just monitor rather than having to lead from up front!  You can find this product for physical science (with 251 vocabulary cards!) or biology (with 315 vocabulary cards!) by clicking the pictures below.

A FULL YEAR of "Taboo" inspired vocabulary cards to have for reviewing Physical Science terms!! 250+ terms plus editable cards so you can add your own! Physical Science Vocabulary Review Game - Cumulative BUNDLE by: It's Not Rocket Science

A FULL YEAR of "Taboo" inspired vocabulary cards to have for reviewing Biology terms!! 300+ terms plus editable cards so you can add your own! Biology Vocabulary Review Game - Cumulative BUNDLE by: It's Not Rocket Science


The “Password” inspired review game requires no prep on the front end, but you have to direct the game from up front.  Your class would get divided into 2-4 teams (depending on size).  One team will send up a member.  Their back is to the board and they are facing the team.  You click a slide and a vocabulary word pops up.  Their team has to describe the word and get the person up front to guess it correctly before the timer goes off.  Each word a new team sends up a member.  You can find this product for physical science or biology (FOR FREE!) by clicking the pictures below.
A FREE midterm or end of year final exam review resource.  The game covers 100 biology vocabulary review terms!  By: It's Not Rocket Science

A perfect midterm or end of year final exam review resource.  The game covers 205 physical science vocabulary review terms!  By: It's Not Rocket Science

The end of the year review can be a stressful time but it DOESN’T HAVE TO BE!! Do things both you and your kids will enjoy and take advantage of the time and effort other people have put in to making great resources.  Let's get rid of the woes of end of year review and replace them with wins for both us and our students!

2 comments

  1. First off, I just "found" you and LOVE your blog and TPT store. We think really similarly and our road into education is similar too :) Next- I have a game that is almost "full contact" review and that require almost no prep, outside of a list of vocab terms and definitions. I (or have a few students) randomly write 20-30 vocab terms on the white board and split the students into 3-5 teams. Each team is assigned a color and sends one student up to the board with their white board marker. I read the definition and the first person to circle the correct term gets a point for their team. I often have to start adding rules like "you have to stay behind this line" or "no boxing out" or "you have to keep your arms down" then "keep your legs down too". When we've gone through those words we erase everything, I call out the next 20-30 terms for students to write on the board, (John, write "ATP", Mary, write "cytoplasm") and we continue to play. I save this game for mid-term and finals to break up the monotony :) Another day I play vocab BINGO and have the kids make then randomly fill in their own BINGO cards using terms on a powerpoint, play a few rounds, turn the page over and make another card and write in a different 24 terms (again, no prep) and another day have them play "Memory" using terms and definition cards I had them make the day before (again, no prep).

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    1. I LOVE these ideas so much!! Anything with minimal prep pumps me up! Thank you for sharing! I will definitely try those out. I am also so glad you found me too!! I love finding "teacher soul mates" if you will :)

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