Studying can be one of the most mentally taxing activities to do as a student. Sometimes it can be difficult to stay focused on the topic at hand, whereas other times it may be that the subject you’re studying may be too complex to understand without any tutoring or outside help.
Personally, I try not to view studying as a chore, but rather, a necessary tool for success. If I didn’t study, I wouldn’t have the GPA nor time management skills I have today.
With finals season around the corner for students within my school district, here are my top 5 favorite ways to study for pop quizzes, final exams, and everything in between:
- Take excellent notes.
Whether you’re a bullet journal fiend or a doodler at heart, finding your favorite way to take – and study – notes is extremely important for academic success. Without comprehensive notes, you wouldn’t be able to refer to the material you wrote down, therefore not being able to study effectively in the first place.
If you’re like me and love taking notes by writing everything down, I recommend using your best handwriting and abbreviating any words when necessary (i.e. “ppl” instead of “people”). This way, you will be able to quickly read over your notes later on and the information will stick to your brain much easier.
Another small tip that is extremely effective is to take your notes with different colored pens, and using those colors to “color-code” your notes. For example, for titles I like to use a red pen, but I use blue ink for the main material. For crucial points in my notes, I use a green pen and/or a yellow highlighter to further emphasize them. To annotate books I’m reading, I tend to use a purple pen for critical points of the novel and a black pen for questions I may have for the author.
- Set up a study schedule.
Making time to study may be the most challenging aspect of studying itself. If you spend countless hours completing your homework every night, it may be tiresome to study once you’ve finished all your assignments. This is why finding your optimal study schedule is necessary.
In my opinion, setting up your own study schedule is like setting up a consistent date – you need to find the location, date, time, and overall ambience of the date (or study schedule).
First, I suggest figuring out whether you like studying on your own or with your peers. (Personally, I prefer studying by myself.) Afterwards, you want to find your favorite study spot or, if you prefer to switch it up, find your top 3 favorite study spots. My favorite 3 study locations are my room, Starbucks, and the school library.
Once you have the location(s) finalized, it’s time to actually make time to study. Figure out if you’d like to study on a daily basis or dedicate certain days of the week to studying. After, you want to set up a beginning and end time for this “date” – are you a morning person and find studying early in the A.M. the best option for you? Or are you a night owl whose productivity is at its peak during the nighttime?
You also want to make sure you know the ambience of your study area. Do you like studying in a silent place – like a library – or a more upbeat location, such as the student lounge or cafeteria. Maybe you want to use earbuds to listen to your favorite tunes while you study, or perhaps you prefer to use earplugs to block out any external sound. Do you want to study in a location in which you can be social or a place where you can have some privacy?
And congratulations! You’ve successfully set up your official study schedule. Now, it’s time to move on to the nitty gritty…
- Study actively, not passively.
Unless you’re Akira Haraguchi, reading by memorizing may not be as practical as you may believe. Reading over your notes is not the most effective way to study unless you’re supplementing that reading through another means.
What does this mean? In other words, you’re going to have to do more than just read if you would like to better understand the material.
You can do this by reciting the material out loud by memory, testing yourself using flashcards, drawing the material and connecting it to different concepts, or teaching the material to somebody else. These methods can be memorized using the widely loved Star Wars droid, R2D2 (Reciting, Testing, Drawing, and Teaching).
All of the methods explained in R2D2 are methods of active studying, whereas simply reading or skimming over the material are methods of passive studying. By studying actively, you’re allowing yourself to fully engage with the subject rather than letting it escape from your mind quickly (as passive studying does).
- Repetition is key.
Imagine the week leading up to an AP exam (or another difficult test) last year. Were you studying your brain cells dry? Were you skimming past material from chapter one? Did you learn a lot by cramming?
Now think of the material now. Did you memorize most – or all – of it? Would you pass the AP exam if you were to take it today?
Chances are, you won’t. This is why continual repetition is incredibly crucial if you’d like to study effectively overtime.
Think back to the study schedule you set up for yourself. Do you allow yourself plenty of time to repeat the material (even those from the very first chapters of the course)? If not, you may need to adjust your study schedule in order to include more repetition.
For Mock Trial, I have to study and memorize a 3-minute opening statement for competition. This opening statement consists of paragraphs of varying size and may sound slightly different every single time I recite it. Though this may be challenging, I have learned to memorize my opening statement through consistent repetition. I allocate 15 minutes each night to memorizing and reciting my opening, even if it means staying up 15 minutes later than usual just to remember it all. By sacrificing time to study my opening every night, I have already memorized the entire statement and have confidence in my abilities to recite it verbatim on the day of competition.
- Make studying fun.
As I said earlier, studying may be incredibly taxing for students, which is why making studying a fun activity can make you feel more inclined to study more frequently.
There are several ways through which you can accomplish this – try creating a Jeopardy game using AP biology terms and testing your peers, placing gummy bears at the end of every paragraph of the novel to incentivize you to read the material, or reading over your U.S. History notes in a British accent and voice-recording it for you to follow along to later on. One of my favorite ways to make studying a fun activity is to use Quizlet to review the material and play the games on Quizlet to enhance my learning.
Although studying can be a mental and physical challenge for a plethora of students, that doesn’t mean it has to be a chore all the time. By making studying exciting rather than a prerequisite for boredom, you will be more willing to study on a consistent basis and make any material you’re studying that much easier to memorize.
If you’re studying for an upcoming quiz or for finals season, I wish you the best of luck! Remember to implement “R2D2” and to set up your study “dates” so you can succeed!