While there is no “right” way to prepare for an exam, there are ways to get the most out of the time you're putting in.
That's because when it comes to studying, a little strategic planning can go a long way. After all, grades aren't determined by how many hours you spend staring at a textbook or how many hours of sleep you sacrifice. Instead of putting in more hours, here are nine tips to help you study more effectively.
1. Know thyself
Before you dive into the material, it's important to consider what works best for you as an individual. Think back to some of your most successful test taking experiences and try to remember how you prepared. For some people, cue cards with questions on one side and answers on the back are most effective. Others might change the lyrics to their favourite song to create rhyming patterns, and some might learn best by reading over their class notes again and again. Find the method that works best for you and you're bound to see better results.
2. Ask the right questions
While some may be too shy to raise their hand, asking questions about the exam is often encouraged. Talk to your teacher, professor or teaching assistant about what material will be covered, what the format of the test will be, how much it counts towards your final grade and what resources will be provided to the class to help them prepare. This will help you focus on the content that matters most and ensure there are no surprises on test day.
3. Play favourites
When exam season begins, the amount of information that you're required to cover can feel overwhelming. As you consider how you're going to tackle this mountain of material, begin by prioritizing what really matters. That not only means dedicating more studying time to subjects and classes you're struggling with as well as those exams that have a greater impact on your final grade, but also prioritizing the content that is most likely to be covered on the exam.
4. Get organized
As you map out your study plan, consider how much time you will reasonably need in order to tackle each topic, and sketch out a schedule that includes time for everything. “You can actually spend less time studying for your exam if you start with a great game plan,” according to an article in the Princeton Review. It often helps to begin this process a few weeks or even a full month before the exam date, ensuring that you have a specific plan for when and how you're going to work through each subject.
5. Find your study place
Your surroundings can have a significant impact on your motivation, focus and drive, especially when it comes to studying. While some might find the library less distracting, others might prefer working from a café, and some might find they get more done when they stay home. Consider which environment is most comfortable and conducive to your studying style.
6. Limit distractions
Wherever you choose to do your studying, make sure there's nothing that can easily break your focus. Put your phone on silent mode, close your social media windows and tell your roommates to keep it down. Before you dive in, make sure you've limited anything in your surroundings that might break your focus.
7. Incentivize yourself
While the feeling of accomplishment that comes from a long day of studying is nice and all, we often need regular breaks and rewards to keep ourselves motivated.
"When you study, your brain consumes glucose," Ted Dorsey, author of Tutor Ted's Guide to the SAT, recently told Teen Vogue. "Take a five-minute break every hour to let your body produce more fuel for your studying. Take a walk and stretch. Taking breaks will actually improve your studying."
8. Arrive well rested
While many believe the best way to acing an exam is by sacrificing sleep, students typically perform better on tests when they're well rested. In fact, a study by Baylor University confirms that students who sleep eight hours before an exam outperform their classmates.
9. Be confident
If you arrive to your exams in a state of panic, you're not going to perform to the best of your abilities. Instead, concentrate on the time and energy you've put in, and be confident that you've done the best you can to prepare.
By the time you’re in university or college, you’ve already taken and survived your share of final exams. You’ve been spending the semester or year learning this material. Take a few slow, steady breaths. You got this.
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