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A Good Student's 3-Step Guide to Studying

Although studying may seem like madness, there is a method to it. Here's one student's broken down in three steps.

As warmer weather approaches, there’s nothing like being shut inside with a textbook to herald impending exams. The flurry of flashcards and barraging begs for extra credit is the stuff nightmares are made of! Although studying may be madness, there is a method to it. Here’s mine:

1. Your page-staring needs repairing

Let this be abundantly clear: if your study method includes staring at a page, it needs to be revamped. No amount of time spent looking into the soul of the word “antimetabole” will help you differentiate it from “anthimeria” on a test. In order to effectively encode information into your memory, you need to interact with the material. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to do this both electronically and by hand. Draw a chart, create flashcards with pictures, make acronyms, compose a song, hear the information spoken to you, or pretend you are giving a speech about the information and recite as much as you can from memory. It doesn’t really matter how you absorb the information as long as you are effortfully processing it.

2. Ma’s good old-fashioned recitation

As much as you don’t want to hear this next bit of advice, it really is a lifesaver. For subjects ranging from foreign languages to math to orchestra, repeated practice or rehearsal of information is a great way to nail down difficult or abstract topics. Cognitive psychologists have found that it is much easier to retain information repeated over a long period of time than information that is “brain dumped” in a short period of time (aka cramming). So, while rote memorization is often frowned upon as shallow learning, it is a good method to practice when trying to secure technicalities like spellings, vocabulary meanings, and even musical numbers. Be selective about the types of information you leave to be purely memorized, and try to break down larger topics into manageable pieces. Additionally, if you can, give yourself plenty of time to slowly commit individual pieces to memory.

3. Life-saving resources for the 11th (or 12th) hour

Oh, high school student, why do you still assume that you can teach yourself the entire pre-calculus curriculum in one evening? As much as the real world would retract their sympathy in a hot a2 + b2 = cminute, we masters of the late night know what it’s like to feel wholly unprepared the night before an exam. That’s why we’ve put together a quick last-resort list of resources that can help you absorb a lot of information in a very, very short amount of time. The first, and perhaps best, is Quizlet. By eliminating the need for pens and note cards and cutting work time in half, Quizlet’s online flashcard system is not only very simple to operate, but allows you to auto-define terms and upload pictures. Whether you generate your own flashcard set or search a bank of pre-existing ones, you can then choose to study the information in different modes like speller, matching, or fill-in-the-blank. The site even generates a test for you out of the information you’ve inputted.

Related: So You Think You Can Study?

Writing a conclusion here would only be wasting your precious study time, so I’ll be concise: good luck!

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About Molly Weisner

Molly is a high school senior who loves all things French and Shakespeare. After four years of writing for her school paper, she has cultivated a passion for journalism that she is excited to expand to the collegiate and professional level. Besides writing, Molly enjoys babysitting, helping at her mother's art studio, and finding new, increasingly eclectic coffee shops in her hometown. She loves being surrounded by fellow bright students and can't wait to share her experience with the CollegeXpress community.


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