Truthfully, I’ve never been too good at studying. For most of my elementary school career and the first year of high school, I didn’t have to be. I was smart enough to get by with average grades and maybe looking over my notes a few times. But since then, I’ve had to learn how to study in order to keep my marks up. And as someone who, when not medicated, is pretty much the human embodiment of Hammy the squirrel (or else that dog from Up), studying can be a real pain in the butt. So in honor of my first semester exams coming up in a few weeks, I’ve put together a list of tricks that help me and might help you too.
Make a schedule.
I can attribute a good chunk of my writerly and scholastic success to the fact that I schedule my time. Granted, I don’t always follow the schedule, but I’ve found that with saying okay, I’ll spend an hour and a half on homework, then an hour writing, then applying for jobs, etc., I’ve gotten a lot more efficient than I used to be. If you pencil in specific study time, you’re more likely to go through with it. (At least, that’s the theory.)
Try the Pomodoro method.
I’ve talked about this before, but the Pomodoro method is a time management technique where you do 25 minutes of work before taking five minute breaks, and every third break is 15 minutes long. A lot of people swear by this method for studying, and I’ve found it to be pretty helpful myself. Now, the key to the method is that your breaks can’t just be oh hey, I’m going to go on Tumblr for five minutes. Ideally, they should have something to do with you getting off your butt, like doing a couple stretches or just getting a glass of water. That’s been my biggest mistake, but once I remedied that, I found I was a lot more productive. If you’re looking for more examples of what to do during study breaks, the official Pomodoro website has a list for you.
Make study notes.
Odds are if you’re anything like me, your class notes can be anything from super neat to chicken scratch that even you can’t read. So it might be helpful to rewrite the material you know will be on your test in a slightly neater fashion. Also, make your notes colourful. ADHD kids like shiny things. And if you make a colour code (e.g. blue = definitions, red = headings, purple = important thing, green = equation), it’ll make things even easier to remember.
Make a list of definitions.
Or equations if you’re studying math, or dates if you’re studying history. You get the point. Often, there’ll be some sort of definitions question on the test, and even if there isn’t, knowing the definitions will still help you anyways.
Take a blank piece of paper and write the most important things on it as if you’re allowed to bring it into the exam.
This is a handy-dandy cramming sheet that will prove very useful. I heard this tip online about a year ago, and it’s helped me a lot.
Always study in the same place.
It makes it easier to recall things when you have a better idea of when and where you were studying them.
Review your notes before bed.
I heard this from one of my teachers, and though I’m not totally convinced that it works, here’s the gist of it: reviewing your notes right before you fall asleep makes them the last thing you think of, and thus makes them easier to remember. (Or something like that.) It’s worth a try, at least.
Know how you learn.
This might be the most important one on the list. When studying, it’s important to learn your learning style. Are you an aural learner? Look for songs about your subject on YouTube. Visual? Make pretty study notes with lots of diagrams. Verbal? Record yourself reading your notes out loud, and listen to the recording while reading along to your notes. Social? Study with a group. If you don’t know your learning style, I highly suggest you find out. There’s a handy quiz here if you’re curious.
- WikiHow: How to Study
- University of Guelph: A Guide to University Learning
- Buzzfeed: 17 Unexpected Study Hacks
- Ginger & Co.: Finals Week Study Tips
- Dani Dearest: 10 Tips for Learning to Study in College
- Sarah Laughed: The Ultimate Guide Final Exams
- Chase the Write Dream: Preparing For College ExamsChase the Write Dream: Preparing For College Exams
What tricks help you study?