Few things stress college students quite like finals and midterms.
This is doubly true when you consider that many college students never had to study much in high school, and the type of exams they took were different.
I never really ‘studied’ in high school and always got good grades. I naively thought college would be the same. Ha!
Many college classes don’t even have any other assignments outside of the exams, which makes studying all the more important.
When a Final Exam accounts for 50% (and sometimes more) of your grade, you really need to hone in on your study skills.
Whether you’re trying to learn how to study or just want to improve your studying, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best study tips for college students.
Best Study Tips For College Students
Take Good Notes
Good studying starts in the classroom. Much of your studying is based on the notes you take, so if your notes aren’t helpful you won’t be able to study well.
Put dates on your notes and title them, too. This makes it easier to find the corresponding chapters in the textbooks, and it helps you keep your notes organized.
If the professor writes something on the board, be sure to copy it in your notes. If they took the time to write it on the board, you can bet that they think it’s important.
Try to take your notes in an outline format. This makes them easier to read and is also a useful organizational tool.
You could even make outlines of the chapters in the textbook that the professor will be covering before the lecture, and then add to them as they lecture on it.
Review The Notes Daily
Spend thirty minutes per class reviewing the notes each day. Reviewing the material within 24 hours has been shown to increase retention dramatically.
It’s also an opportunity to identify areas where you are still confused and could use some clarification from the professor.
Even if your exam is weeks away, make sure you’re looking over the chapters and notes everyday. This will keep the information fresh in your mind and make your actual study sessions less extensive as you won’t have to be relearning things you’ve forgotton.
This doesn’t mean study while you run on the treadmill. It means engage with the material while you study.
Reading the textbook is not studying. Re-reading the textbook is not studying. Highlighting and underlining while you read is not active studying.
You need to find ways of learning the material that keep your interest and help you retain the information.
Creating your own study guide is a great example. It requires you to think critically about the material. Not only that, you have to think about it on multiple levels, because you’re building a guide to help you study. Include a quiz to really go all-out.
Create examples that relate to your own life experiences that help you understand the material.
This way you’ll always have strong memory triggers for that subject. You could also try teaching- just to yourself.
Find the time and space to be alone, and lecture as if you were teaching that material to a class. Many people find that they learn material much more deeply if they have to figure out how to teach it.
Don’t be ashamed if your roommate catches you talking to yourself! This has happened to me on multiple occasions (lol!) but I always did great on my exams when I ‘taught’ the lesson.
Study In Different Places
You’d be surprised how different places might affect your ability to study.
In fact, it’s often best to have several study spots and rotate between them.
Memory is influenced by location, so when you switch it up frequently, you remember things better.
Sometimes, if you find that you’re having trouble focusing, packing your books up and moving to a different spot can help you concentrate better, too.
Something about the change in scenery gives you a little mental boost.
Mix it up between libraries, cafes, and study halls to keep your mind active and engaged with the material.
Don't Pull An All-Nighter
All-night study sessions may have been a mainstay of college life for generations, but they are absolutely terrible for you.
In fact, staying up all night to study for an exam is probably worse than not studying at all.
You need sleep for your brain to function properly. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, your memory won’t be as good and your cognitive abilities will decline.
In other words, you won’t be able to think as well and you won’t remember things as well. That’s not a recipe for success in college.
Instead of cramming all of your studying into an all night session right before the exam, studying in short sessions throughout the semester, and get plenty of sleep each night.
You’ll be much better off.
Switch Topics Frequently
Most people like to immerse themselves in studying for one subject for hours before switching to another one.
The assumption is that spending all that time immersed in one subject makes you more likely to remember the information. Unfortunately, the opposite is true.
The best way to improve you retention of the information you’re studying is to switch topics every thirty minutes or so.
You won’t get bored as easily this way, and since you’re maintaining a higher level of interest in the subject matter you’ll retain the information more easily.
Take Breaks Often
Your brain needs a break every so often.
If you feel yourself starting to fade, take a break. Watch a little bit of TV, go for a walk outside, or take a quick nap.
Basically, do something that doesn’t require you to think for a little while.
When you come back to studying, you’ll be refreshed and ready to go.
Rewrite Your Notes
Many people find that writing things down helps them remember it better.
Instead just reading through your notes, rewrite them as you read. Or copy them onto flashcards.
Find some way of writing down the information again so that you’ll retain it better.
Instead of trying to memorize things, focus on truly understanding the concept. Memorization is difficult and it’s a brute-force approach to learning material that really drains you without actually helping you much in the long run.
If you focus instead on understanding the material, memorization will follow naturally and easily. You’ll also have a much easier time of it in classes later on that build on what you’re learning now.
Try The Pomodoro Method
The Pomodoro method has been my absolute favorite focus technique.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that consists of working in 25 minute intervals.
Decide what it is you have to get done. Only pick one topic. Don’t try to study for chemistry, read a chapter in your literature book, and make plans for the weekend. Pick one thing you want to get done.
Once you’ve picked the one topic of focus, set a timer for 25 minutes. You can use a regular timer or download specific Pomodoro apps if you want (I use this one).
Once the timer ends, spend 5 minutes away from your desk or laptop to refresh. You can do pushup, the dishes, make tea. Whatever you want.
I do, however, try to avoid ‘time-suckers’ during these 5 minutes like social media sites, but that’s just me.
Once the 5 minutes are up, reset the timer for 25 minutes and repeat. Do this four times with one long 20 minute break after four Pomodoros.
For me, the Pomodoro method has been life-changing because it is incredible how much work I can get done when I spend 25-minutes purely focused on one thing instead of dividing my attention and attempting to do a bunch of things at once.
Before your next round of exams, try out these tips and see how they work for you.
Instead of relying on the methods that your parents generation used, try something new.
All of these tips are designed to avoid the old, brute-force way of learning things and help you truly understand the information you need to know.
My Study Essentials
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