“How do you study for your tests?”
If your answer is “I skim through my notes”, you are a part of a large majority of students who need some help with their studying habits. Here are a few of the best tips to help you study better.
Day to Day
Learning that happens on a daily basis certainly lasts the longest. So make sure you do a bit every day. Here are the things you should ideally be doing:
Take good notes
This is the most important part of your learning since these are the very notes you would be repeatedly referring to before exams and assignments. Always take the notes for a particular subject in the same notebook to avoid any mixing up. Spiral bound notebooks with dividers are best suited for college. Put a date on each entry in your notebook. Your notes do not need to be a transcript of everything that was said in class – rather they need to be such that whenever you go through them again, the entire sequence of the lecture comes back to your mind. Make sure whatever the instructor writes down on the board, is also present in your notebook. In addition to that, make sure you follow the same format for your notes (headings, diagrams, main body), making them easier to follow for quick revisions.
Participate in Class
You are not required to just soak up everything the instructor is saying. You have to learn. To make sure you do, you need to speak up if things are not making sense to you. Ask questions if you are confused at any point in the lecture. In addition to that, if there is a group activity going on, make sure you participate fully and try to make the most of it.
Go through your notes everyday
Even though this might sounds like a huge task on a daily basis, it is actually what will help you out most at the end. Spend 30 minutes or so every evening going over the day’s notes from each class. According to research, reviewing material within 24 hours of first coming across it increases your retention of that material by almost 60%. This 60% would come in really handy when you start preparing for tests at the end of the semester.
Use Your Textbook
In college you cannot expect the instructor to give you page by page instructions on what to read in the course text book. You will have to make some effort on your own of making good use of the course reading materials given to you. In ideal circumstances, it would be greatly useful to skim through the relevant topics ahead of each class. Try and grasp the major concepts discussed in the chapter by focusing on the headings and any materials in bold. Instead of just reading through the words, try and understand the basic concepts to the best of your ability. After that particular chapter has been discussed in class, go back and revisit the material, this time, with new understanding and fresh notes taken in class. All the things that were confusing you initially will most likely now start to make sense. Answering the review questions at the end of the chapter will actually help you remember what you have learned.
Finish Assignments on time
One thing you must have heard often as a student is the age-old advice of not leaving your assignments to the last day. If you have an essay to write or a report to submit, start working on it as soon as you get it. Research papers actually require good material that you cannot gather in one or two days. So begin working on a project right away.
Another thing to bear in mind is the presentation of your work. Even though you might think this is not important, it has a very strong effect on how the instructor will perceive your abilities. Torn out pages from notebooks or assignments written in pencil never make a good impression. Type-written work, with a neat staple pin at the corner would make your work a lot more readable, easy to follow and hence easy to grade.
Preparing for Exams
As with assignments, do not wait till the last day to study for your exam. Begin early to avoid unnecessary stress and to ensure you don’t miss out on any important topics.
Ask about the format
It is a perfectly legitimate question to ask your instructor about the format of the exam. Once you know what type of questions to expect (long, short, MCQs, Fill in the Blanks, etc), you will be in a better position to prepare for the exam accordingly.
Outline your notes
This will help you understand the concept first and then move into the detail of matters. Do not try to simply memorize the notes because that is certainly not going to help. It might help you pass the exam but there would be no actual learning in the process.
Make diagrams, lists, charts
Doing this will give the concepts a pictorial form and make it easier for you to memorize and remember key concepts. If the exam requires you to draw certain diagrams, then make sure you practice drawing them (with labels) beforehand.
Memorize the Right Things
With new subjects, you will come across a lot of new and tricky terms. These you will need to memorize. A good way to do that would be using flash cards.
Give yourself the most challenging tests ever. Put the toughest questions on these self-tests and try to get through them in one attempt. A good way to go about creating such a test would be to keep a running collection of “exam questions” while you are studying. In the process of studying, many “could-be” questions will pop up in your head. Jot them down on a separate sheet of paper and you will have an exam at the end of your study routine.
Don’t try to pull an “All-Nighter”
This is one term college students would be very well aware of. This kind of a study pattern will try to squeeze a lot of concepts into your brain at once, at the expense of lack of sleep and a diminishing ability to concentrate. At the end of the day, it won’t do you much good.
Get plenty of sleep before your final exam
Don’t miss an exam, you will most certainly not be able to cover up later
Always keep the necessary notebooks and study materials handy
Set aside a separate study area at home
No matter how many tips you get for studying, at the end of the day you have to create a routine that works best for you. You have to ask yourself the question: What are your best tips for studying? Make a study schedule for yourself according to this. Nobody but yourself can create the ideal routine for you. And once you have a routine, make sure you stick to it.