The idea of the dreaded test is one which can strike fear, cause anxiety, and lead to intense procrastination for many students at all levels, whether in high school or college. Yet with the right kind of preparation you can be one step ahead of your peers. As a third year college student routinely subjected to midterms every other week, I have overcome my share of difficult tests over the past few years. In the struggles to overcome the anxiety of impending tests, I have learned a lot about how to improve my studying ability to reach my academic goals. I’m here to share some key tips that with enough effort and practice, can help you ace your tests now and in the future.
No matter whether you have a few weeks or a few days left until a test you are likely going to want to put off studying just one more day. Don’t. Waiting until the last second and pulling an all-nighter can wreak havoc on your mental stability during test day. Sleep is extremely vital to your performance on tests and for your well-being. Instead of procrastinating, force yourself to study at least a few days beforehand, although a week would be best. Spend the weekend before really clamping down and delving into your notes. Use the rest of the days between test day to refresh what you already learned and to ask any questions you have to your teacher about what you’ve studied. The feeling of preparedness and confidence you have coming into a test which you have already studied comprehensively a week before is something you cannot achieve if you procrastinate.
Study in Groups
Studying in groups can be one of the best ways to retain information for an upcoming test. Finding a group of classmates who are dependable and willing to work hard can be really beneficial. Whether it be history or math, study groups can be great ways to help flesh out difficult definitions, problems, or arguments. As opposed to the monotony of reading pages and pages of notes, group studying can allow you think of problems and answers in different ways. If you have an upcoming math test, split up your review sheet with your group and discuss your assigned problem, the solution, and how to reach the correct answer. If you have an English or history test, split up your work by assigning different chapters to each member of your group and work through discussions of key themes, characters/historical figures, arguments, and main points. The experience you have in working with groups will help you down the line and is a great change of pace from regular self-study methods.
Knowing is half the battle. When studying try to figure out the best way you retain information. If you are struggling to remember characters from a novel through pure memorization, try writing out flash cards and reading character summaries aloud to yourself. Maybe you have a Spanish vocabulary test and if so try taping flash cards all over the objects they represent in your house. If studying by yourself isn’t working try studying with another person and reading definitions to each other aloud. If you are creating a review sheet and words are just all blending together when you are studying try creating symbols or drawings in your notes to help you represent terms or abstract ideas. Efficient studying methods can vary from person to person so find what works for you, whether it be through reading, writing, speaking aloud, studying with another person, or interacting with the environment.
Know Your Instructor and the Test
The difficulty of a test is dictated by your teacher or professor so knowing how tests are structured is important. Often instructors like to drop hints about problems or topics that appear on tests so make sure to cover these during your study sessions. Pay attention to what is emphasized in your readings and by your teacher. Also try to remember how your teachers like to assemble their test. Do they prefer multiple choice or free answer questions? Are questions pulled from your homework, past tests, a review sheet, or the textbook? Knowing that you should spend 10-15 minutes looking back on a previous test or your homework will help you get those questions correct on your tests. Make sure to match up your studying methods with the structure of the test by focusing on key themes if you have short or long answers and being more focused on readings or notes if you have a multiple choice or fill in the blank questions.
Take a Breather
Although a non-stop seven hour study session on Thursday night before your Friday test seems doable make sure to keep yourself focused and on track by taking occasional breaks. Studies have proven breaks do increase productivity and help alleviate stress. After an hour or so of studying make sure to take a 10-15 minute break to stand up and stretch, take a walk, jog outside, or just take a few minutes to relax. Personally after an entire morning and afternoon of studying, I like dropping by the gym for an hour to run on a treadmill or play some basketball. On my way back home I feel energetic and refreshed and often can handle another few hours of studying. There is a fine line between taking breaks and procrastinating so make sure you don’t overdo it. Also make sure you take some time during your break to get hydrated and grab a snack.
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