Those who perform well on tests are not always the smartest or hardest-working students in the class. They often are the ones who have developed productive studying techniques. These skills can help you better understand the material and earn higher test scores. Here are some tips for improving your studying proficiency.
Before School Starts
For many college-bound students, high school did not require sophisticated studying skills. Things are different in college, which means you have to be prepared to work harder than before.
You are going to have to take more thorough notes in class. Writing in a conventional way, fully spelling every word, is too slow to keep up with a professor’s speech. You need to develop some sort of shorthand writing style. There are a number of methods from which to choose, or you can come up with your own way of doing it. You must write not only quickly, but also clearly enough that you can read your notes days or weeks later. Get separate notebooks for each class. Staying organized can help diminish the sense of being overwhelmed by the college experience.
In the Classroom
The information you have to know to pass a test is given to you in class. But a lot of other material also is presented. The challenge is to discern the topics that will be on the exam. That is the information you need to have in your notes.
Even if you could write fast enough to record every word a professor says, your notes would be too cumbersome to be of much assistance in studying for a test. Identify the lecture’s ideas and themes. Get a general idea of the concepts involved. Listen closely to the professor’s emphasis on certain facts, as it may reveal the relative importance of information. If the teacher writes something on the board, this is a clear sign that the material is likely to appear on the exam.
If you don’t understand what is being said, or if a word the professor uses is unfamiliar to you, do not be afraid to pose questions. It’s OK to ask for something to be repeated, if it has been presented in a rapid-fire manner. Keep in mind that if something doesn’t make sense to you, there’s a good chance other students in the class are similarly confused.
Look over your notes to make sure they are legible. You may need to rewrite some words, so they will be clear to you later. Reading your notes shortly after creating them will help you remember the information. Identify anything that you do not understand, so you know what questions to ask in class.
It should go without saying that staying current with reading assignments is critical. Once you fall behind, it can be difficult to catch up on your studies. Read ahead in the textbook, so you have some understanding of the material that will be covered in the next class. Look for section headings, bold-faced passages, and other words and phrases featured prominently in the textbook. These are likely the key concepts you need to learn. Chapters may contain introductions and conclusions that summarize the important material.
Don’t get lost in the details. Make sure you comprehend the ideas being presented. If the text doesn’t make sense to you, it’s going to be hard to remember it. Take advantage of review-and-study questions and other studying aids in textbooks. Compare your class notes with the book to see if there is any contradictory information that you need to clarify.
Studying for the Exam
You actually begin the process of studying for a test the first day of class. You continue by writing down what you hear, reading it later and confirming it by reading the textbook. Each time you hear, write down or read information, you are in effect studying it. This repetition helps your brain retain the material.
Find a quiet space in which to study. You need to feel secure, relaxed and physically comfortable. While some students can study effectively in the presence of other people and their activities, you might be able to concentrate better in an environment with few distractions or interruptions. Have all your notes, textbooks and other materials laid out in front of you, with good lighting. Take frequent breaks by getting up and moving around. Do some stretches and deep breathing.
Read your notes again. Highlight the essential points. You may want to rewrite certain information, to further secure it in your memory. Understand the big picture by organizing your notes in outline form, then reading them again. Look through the textbook a few more times, focusing on the relevant ideas and facts. You can design your own test, writing questions that you think may be posed and then writing the answers.
Cramming for a test is not necessary if you have kept up on your reading, and repeatedly reviewed your notes, throughout the course. Besides, not getting sufficient sleep the night preceding a big test is counterproductive. Also be sure to eat a meal and go to the restroom before class.
These are some of the things that have worked for many students. Keep in mind that you are an individual with your own strengths and challenges. What works for one person may not be an effective studying method for someone else. However, these studying tips have been proven effective in students’ retention of the information they need to know.