I’m sure you all know this feeling: It’s Thursday night, and you’re lounging on the couch binge-watching Netflix when suddenly you remember you have a huge test in the morning. Now, some of you might just continue to stressfully watch Netflix (which I do not recommend), but most will race for your notes and try to cram in as much information as you can. Although you may be able to pull off cramming the night before for some tests, it’s generally not a good way to study and will really hurt you when you get into college. Do yourself the favor now by picking up tactics to go about tackling your next big test (including not forgetting about it) and landing you that long-awaited good grade. Here are some of my favorite study tips and how to use them to benefit you.
1. Plan ahead
Better studying ultimately starts with time management. You need to make sure you’re aware of when that next big test is coming up so you can be ready for it and have time to prepare. You don’t want to be that person who only found out about the test the day before and is now stress-eating their way through life. Invest in a good planner and write down the dates of any tests you know about in advance. If you’re unsure of when the tests are, ask your teacher, professor, or a classmate; they’re all more than willing to help you.
2. Color code your notes
Taking and organizing notes in multiple colors not only makes notetaking more fun and aesthetically pleasing but also can also help you remember your notes better. The brain sometimes sees and works in color, making associations for better information recall. Instead of using pencils or basic black or blue pens, try using bright colors to grab your brain’s attention and help keep you focused.
3. Mix up your methods
Tailor your notetaking and studying methods to each class. If there are a lot of readings, highlight things you find important and make notes in the margins. With anything involving definitions and memorization, flashcards are the ultimate way to go. If it’s a class you struggle in, you may want to read over the subject material from your textbook and take notes on it before you get into class. This lets you become familiar with some basic knowledge so you can focus more on what the teacher or professor is saying and add important additional information into the margins of your prewritten notes.
4. Review daily
This may seem like a strange concept, but it’s worth its weight in gold. For all of your classes, whether you have a test coming up or not, you should be reviewing your notes, readings, activities, etc. daily outside of class. Take a few minutes to glance over your notes and review your reading assignments. This is just to activate your memory and keep the content fresh in your mind; it doesn’t have to be endless hours of studying. A little bit of brief daily reviewing goes a long way. When I started doing this, I found myself hardly needing to spend time studying for tests, because when I went to study, I found I already knew the information pretty well.
5. Find a quiet place
This one is particularly crucial for me when I’m studying. Some people like to work with music on in the background, but playing music or having the television going while I’m trying to learn is not good for me. If you truly want to do well on your tests, I recommend finding a quiet place, free of distractions, where you can focus entirely on learning your material. I know it sounds boring—and it is—but I promise you, studying in a quiet spot pays off. Maybe utilize this for subjects you struggle in, and enjoy your music when you study for subjects you can breeze through.
6. Read your notes out loud
Once you find someplace quiet where you won’t be distracted or disturbed, start speaking your notes to yourself as you review. Reading your notes out loud really helps to engage and focus your brain. Instead of racing in 500 different directions while your eyes meaninglessly scan the paper, your brain will pay attention to what you’re reading.
7. Study in increments
A lot of people think they need to grab their notes and sit down for a solid three hours of nothing but reviewing and memorizing. But what a lot of students don’t know is this is the worst possible way to study. When someone wants to take up running as a hobby, they don’t start out running three miles every day—they run maybe a quarter of a mile, then walk a quarter of a mile so they don’t overwork their body. Studying works the same way. Spend between 15–30 minutes studying at a time, then take a break. The small increments make studying easier to manage to avoid overworking your brain because there is such a thing as over-studying.
8. Quiz the material
After you’ve spent some time studying on your own, ask a friend to quiz you on your material. Not only is quizzing fun, but it’s extremely efficient in helping you remember things, especially when you miss some answers. It helps you realize what you have down and what you might want to spend a little more time looking over.
Sleep is very important when it comes to studying and doing well in your classes. So yes, this is a study tip! Make sure you’re getting sufficient amounts of sleep so your body and mind are at full capacity and ready to learn, study, and take on the day. Sleep is especially important in the days leading up to the test. Most people think they only need to sleep well the night before, but your body functions off of stores of sleep, not just what you received most recently. Take care of yourself and get some rest. After all, you deserve it.
You’ve been hard at work making sure you’re well prepared for your test. Treat yourself to a reward for being awesome! Whether that means seeing a new movie, a night out with friends, buying a new book, or simply a bowl of ice cream, make sure you give yourself some self-love for a job well done!
If these tips just aren’t doing it this time, try out these 4 Unique Study Techniques for When the Usual Tricks Fail You.