Knowing how to prepare yourself for classes is a rare skill. What most students will do is wait until the night before, or a few nights before, to begin reviewing notes and going over class materials. Being prepared for a test starts in the classroom, and doesn’t end until the test is over. Getting good grades, being prepared, and actually learning, not memorizing, takes a lot of effort and time, but it’s worth it to get the education that you’re paying for. There’s no “right way” to study because everyone learns differently and has their own techniques, but here are some tips from the Huffington Post, Test Taking Tips, and the College of DuPage that will push you in the right direction to becoming a straight A student.
– After about a half hour or so (depending on if you have other classes or anything), go over notes from your class. Or at the end of the night, go over your notes from that day. You are more likely to retain this information if you do, making it less that you have to study and relearn later.
– Study in different places. According to the Huffington Post, having different places to study can be a benefit. Studying in your room is usually a bad idea regardless (so easy to just fall asleep or get distracted by your computer), but hit up different places like the library, a classroom, maybe outdoors somewhere if you can find a place that’s quiet. Just make sure it’s comfortable, well-light, and you don’t have many distractions.
– Don’t leave it all for one night. By studying some every night, you’re putting it into your long-term memory. Cramming it in the night before leaves it in your short-term memory, which means you much more likely to forget it if you have something else you need to remember.
– Don’t just memorize your notes. Actually learn the material. Figure out what the general concepts are that you need know, and make sure you that you understand them, not just memorize the definition. Once you know the concepts, it will be a lot easier to learn all the smaller details.
– Study groups can help. As long as you choose to study with other students who are serious about studying, this can be a huge addition to your study routine. You can quiz each other to find out your weak spots, and ask each other questions if you don’t understand something. Just be careful not to turn it into a social outing.
– If you have to memorize vocabulary, flash cards have been proven time and again to work. Make it into a little game to make it more the studying more fun.
– Show up to class, first of all, and then take notes while in class. Try to keep a good record of what your teacher says in an organized fashion, like an outline. And keep your notes in the same notebook, and use a different notebook for each class, so that when you’re studying you are much more organized. If your instructor writes it down on the board or something, definitely make sure to have that in your notes, as it must be important if he or she pointed it out. Even if you’re going to get a copy of the PowerPoint from class, I still think it’s better to also take your own notes, so you’re engaged in the lecture and not just doodling or playing on your phone. If you’re engaged in class, participate, and ask questions when you don’t understand something, that’s a huge step toward being prepared.
– Before class, you should read the chapter or pages that will go with what you are learning in class. Most teachers in college aren’t going to test you on it or won’t necessarily have assigned reading, but if you go into class already knowing some of the information, you’re giving yourself a head start. When reading the textbook, make sure to take notes, and you should distinguish what you wrote from the book and what you wrote from class. Skim through it once to see what the big concepts are, bolded words, headers, etc. Then read through it again more carefully, taking notes and learning what is in the chapter. Most teachers will hand out a syllabus that says what chapters you’ll be going over each day in class, which is where you can find what you should be reading.
– Take breaks while studying. Your brain will better remember what you study in the beginning and what you study at the end of your session. If you study for five hours, everything you studied in the middle will be hard to remember. By taking breaks, you are giving your brain more chance to remember everything.
– Playing some low jazz or classical music or anything that won’t be too distracting is a good way to help deflect some of the boredom that can come with studying. Plus, there have been studies that having some background noise might be good because it makes your brain work harder to block it out, meaning you are using more of your brain.
– Don’t categorize yourself into a certain learner or whether you’re right-brained or left-brained. That can hinder your studying. Just figure out what works best for you, and don’t worry about if that means you are a visual learner or an auditory learner.
– Invest in a good laptop to do your homework on. There is nothing more frustrating than a laptop that freezes or crashes constantly when you are trying to write a paper or studying for an exam. A laptop that easily converts into a tablet is a great option – that way you have a full keyboard to write papers, but you can easily use it as a textbook without the weight of a traditional computer. Lenovo and Best Buy have some great options, and they offer discounts.
– If you are stuck on something that you don’t understand, but don’t feel like asking your friends for help, you can find help online at Chegg Study. As a member you can search through millions of guided step-by-step solutions or ask for help from the Chegg community of subject experts 24/7.
– Don’t cram right before the test. That makes you panic, which could lead to test anxiety. This won’t help you when you’re taking your test. If you prepare well in the weeks leading up to the test, you should be fine. If you want, the night before, while you’re studying, write down a few ideas or phrases you want to refresh the next day. Read over them a few times when you wake up, and again before the test, to help put them in your long-term memory.
– Making sure to be physically ready for tests is important. Don’t pull all-nighters trying to study for the test. You’ll be too tired to really get any information from studying, and having a tired mind for a test means you won’t be working at your full capacity. Make sure you have all your materials you’ll need like calculators, pens, notebooks, etc. Have extra pens/pencils just in case. Go to the bathroom before the test, because your teacher will probably not let you go, or they won’t be happy if you do.
– Make habits when it comes to schoolwork. If you make a habit of being prepared for class (bringing all your materials, organizing them, engaging, etc.), and a habit of studying the notes from that day’s classes for just a half an hour or so every night, then over time it will become easier. If you need to study for longer than a half an hour, then do that. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to fully learn the material.
Hopefully these study tips will help you to become better students and perform well on exams. College is often thought of as a time to party, let loose, and do whatever you want with little consequences. But the reality is that your parents are paying money (often times a LOT of money), for you to learn. And there are things that you learn outside of the classroom, but you also need to learn inside of the classroom. So don’t let studying fall by the wayside. Follow these tips, find out what you like best, and see how it can affect your grades!