How to get better at Studying for Exams

It is both frustrating, and annoying to spend hours staring at a book only to draw a blank when it comes time to remember the information for exams. Sadly not every student that commits their time to studying actually learns anything from their efforts. If a typical night before an exam is spent pouring over text books and notes trying to cram just a little more information only to forget it as soon as the test is over the time and the class were wasted.

Studying should be about learning rather than quick memorization. A new approach to studying along with some new skills and clearer expectations can increase the effectiveness of studying, commit more of the information to long term memory, and make test time just a little less stressful.

There is more than one way to study. Few students take into account their learning styles when studying but learning style is important to information retention. There are many different quizzes and test available to discover your learning style. Taking one or two of them will help you understand why your current system doesn’t work.

Study habits are also important.

Study a little each day instead of trying to learn it all the night before. Waiting until the last possible minute to start studying for the test means trying to force the mind to absorb a lot of information at once instead of in the smaller chunks it handles best. To avoid this start reviewing the material as soon as possible after it’s covered.

Remember to take notes during the class. For some people writing it down helps it stand out in their memory for others it doesn’t. This really depends on your personal preference. Learning to take notes quickly and covering the basic information will make studying it later much easier. When taking notes remember not every word and sentence matters. Look for names, dates, and keywords, definitions and facts. If the teacher takes time to stress a point, mark it for future reference. They rarely spend time drilling in unimportant details.

When it comes time to actually study start with identifying what you know. Read through the text, then read through the notes. When you come to something you did not remember, or still do not understand mark it to come back to it later. There will be a lot of information that you did remember the first time through so why would you waste time and effort going over that again when there were things that you still need to learn? 

Spend as much time as possible going over the areas that you had trouble understanding. If you still do not understand ask a friend or the instructor to help you with it. Once you have those down you can go back through all of the information just to be sure. Cover your problem areas and the others will take care of themselves. A short review of all the information may not help but it cannot hurt either.

Associate as much of the new information with already existing knowledge as you can. Find how it fits in with what you know and understand going into the subject. The more practical the use of the knowledge the easier it is to remember.

Study in bursts rather than all at once. Several twenty to twenty-five minute study sessions with five to ten minute breaks in between will give the mind more time to process what’s being read. Studying for two hours straight will not do any more good than studying for two hours with a ten minute breaks every twenty-five minutes.

If you have the class with friends study together whenever possible. If not look for a study group or a tutor. Often having other people to study with can help make it seem less like your being punished for trying to learn. Having someone to discuss thoughts and ideas related to the subject as well as to point out when you’ve gotten facts mixed up can be a blessing.

Classes may seem like they’re all about exams but they are not. Classes are designed to help the student learn. Exams are merely a way for the teacher to gauge how well the students have learned the subject. For this reason if you actually attempt to learn the subject as it’s presented rather than memorizing it at the last minute the exam itself will be easy.

Studying more frequently, using methods designed to work with your learning strengths, and finding the real world applications of the knowledge are the best ways to improve the effectiveness of studying. If the method you have been using to study isn’t helping you learn, explore different learning styles, and the study habits associated with them until you find a method that does work. You take classes to learn, finding the styles that improve your learning rather than your memorization will help make all the difference when it comes time for exams.