Last Updated: Apr 19, 2017
I’m sure you all know the feeling: it’s Thursday night, you’re lounging on the couch binge-watching Netflix, and you suddenly remember you have a huge test first thing in the morning. Now, some of you might just continue to stressfully watch Netflix (which I do not recommend), but most of you 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 it will really hurt you when you get into college and suddenly find that studying for an hour the night before just doesn’t get A’s like it used to. Thankfully, there are a lot of study tactics available to go about tackling your next big test and landing you that long-awaited good grade. Today I’m going to share some of my personal favorite study tips and how to use them to benefit you and your GPA.
1. Plan ahead
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 really don’t want to be that kid 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 make sure to write down the dates of your tests well in advance. If you’re unsure of when the tests are, ask your teacher, professor, or a fellow classmate; they’re all more than willing to help you.
2. Color code your notes
Taking your notes in multiple colors not only makes note-taking more fun and aesthetically pleasing, but it can also help you remember your notes. The brain sometimes sees and works in color. 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 note-taking method to each class. If it’s a lot of readings, highlight things you find important and make notes in the margins. If it’s lecture based, 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 the subject material, and with some basic knowledge already in your brain, you can focus more on what the professor is saying and add important additional information into the margins with your other textbook notes. With anything involving definitions and memorization, flashcards are the ultimate way to go.
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. And I don’t just mean in class. At some point every day, outside of class, take a few minutes to glance over your notes and review your reading assignments. This is just to refresh your memory and keep the content fresh in your mind; it doesn’t have to be endless hours of studying. A little bit of 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 realized 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 a good idea 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 the quiet pays off.
6. Read your notes out loud
One study method I recently began doing is reading my notes out loud when I’m studying. 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 your paper, your brain will be more focused on what you’re reading. And by engaging your mind through voice, you also engage yourself audibly, so it’s almost like getting double the studying in one round.
7. Study in increments
A lot of people think they need to grab their notes and sit down for a solid three hours doing nothing but reviewing and memorizing their material. But what a lot of people don’t know is that this is actually the worst possible way to study. When someone wants to start taking up running as a hobby, you don’t start out running three miles every day—you take baby steps and start at running maybe a quarter of a mile, then walking a quarter of a mile so you don’t overwork your body. Studying works the same way. Spend between 15–30 minutes studying at a time, and then take a break. The small increments makes studying more easy to manage, and it also makes it easier for your brain to handle. When you study in time increments, your brain won’t get overworked; 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 test material. Not only is quizzing fun, but it’s extremely efficient and helps 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.
Although this isn’t really a study tip, it’s very important when it comes to studying and doing well in your classes. Make sure you are getting sufficient amounts of sleep so your body is at full capacity and ready to learn, study, and take on the day. Sleep is especially important up to two days before the test. Most people think they only need to sleep well the night before, but your body actually functions off sleep you’ve received two days before, not one day before. Take care of yourself, and get some rest. After all, you deserve it.
10. Reward yourself
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 a movie, a night out with friends, a new book, or simply a bowl of ice cream, make sure you give yourself some self-love for a job well done!
What are your favorite study tips? Share them in the comments!