Studying can be daunting - especially because sometimes you don't know how to study. Doing your homework and reading your notes are helpful, but they are NOT studying. You really need to be doing something in order to effectively study. For some students, in some classes, reading through your notes is sufficient, but in general as you sit there reading your notes it is common for your mind to wander. Then, as you are taking the test, you realize that all of the information you thought you knew was actually just familiar. At some point you will reach a wall when it is not enough to simply read through the material and so it is a great idea to begin practicing some different methods of studying to find what will work best for you. Remember, this will be different for each student and, typically, it also varies by different subject areas.
Complete the study skills checklist to self-assess your current study strategies and to consider other areas that you might be able to focus on for future studying.
Here are some other study strategies to consider:
- Re-write or type your notes instead of just reading them.
- Make flashcards and review the content.
- Have someone else question you from your notes, study guide, or text book.
- Another great strategy is to go through and review your old tests - paying particular attention to questions that you answered incorrectly.
- Make your own practice tests. You can use homework questions, sample problems from your classroom notes, or questions from your book or tests and put them together into one test just like your teacher would do. Give yourself a day or two away from looking at it (or at least a few hours of working on a different subject) and then go back and put yourself into a similar test environment and take the test. Practice going straight through the whole test without a break, without distractions, and without stopping to look at your notes or book just as you will have to do in the actual exam. When you have completed the test, check your answers and see how you did. You can then identify areas where you need more practice and review. It may also help you identify concepts that you need to seek help from your teachers or academic assistants on to help make sure you better understand the material.
- Spending time reviewing old homework assignments and worksheets and working through the study guides your teachers provided (if they gave you one) is also an effective strategy.
- It can be very helpful to enhance your notes by adding supplemental information such as what you have learned in the textbook or on other assignment sheets.
- Create a concept map to help illustrate how all the points are connected and what areas are different or unique. Understanding the relationships is much more valuable than just memorizing random facts.
- Summarize information with drawings, charts and tables whenever possible.
- Review information by doing class required reading immediately before or after each class to help reinforce the information.
- Use the learning targets your teachers provide to check your understanding. You can create sample questions from the learning targets, create outlines of the points to understand, or identify areas of weakness using the learning targets.
- Another helpful strategy is to teach someone else. Sometimes this involves teaching a fellow student who is struggling to grasp the concepts, but it can just as easily be your parents, siblings, or a grandparent. By having to explain the information you know, you are reinforcing the concepts in your own mind and seeking useful ways to help someone else to understand the information and why it matters.
- Try to recall as much information from memory as possible. So, think back on the class and try to remember all of the key points and pieces of information that you think you are going to have to know for the test and write them all down. Then compare that list to what you actually are responsible for knowing. What information did you forget about completely? What areas were you unable to recall enough information details? Briefly review that information and then move on to studying for another subject and then later come back and try to recall everything that you will need to know again. Were you able to do better this time? This strategy is effective because it forces you to figure out what you can recall at a certain time - just as you will have to do during tests.
- And last, but certainly not least, take advantage of the opportunity to seek extra help from your teachers. Some teachers offer review sessions, others will meet with students individually or in small groups to answer questions. And other teachers are willing to respond to e-mails to help clarify questions you might have. Remember, they know what is on the test (they created it!) and so they are your best resources for help, yet you must make certain that you truly know the concepts being covered in class.
- Some students will do well starting with the easiest assignments to get into the groove and others will do better tackling the hardest parts first. Find what works best with you.
- Beware of breaks. It isn't that you don't need to pause and take occassional study breaks, but don't fool yourself into thinking that watching a 2-hour movie will help you study later. Breaks shouldn't be too long or you won't be able ot get back into the rhythm of studying. When you take a break, refrain from doing something too interesting because it will be hard to stop and return to studying.
- Don't sacrifice sleep. You need to be well rested in order to have the best recall possible. Cramming all night for a test will not be worth it.
- "Go hard or go home." When you are studying it is easy to "fake it" and claim that you are studying when you are really studying a little, but spending more of your time and energy focused in other areas. Use yuor time wisely and put forth every effort to get the job done completely and effectively - make it worth your time to study.