Q: As the new semester gets under way, I want to be sure I do my best. I know how important GPA is in terms of attracting the attention of employers, gaining acceptance into graduate and professional schools and getting and maintaining scholarships. Do you have any study tips or hacks that will help me ace my exams?
A: Here are some great study tips:
1. Pace yourself – cramming is not the best strategy for success. Planning ahead and leaving enough time to prepare for each exam makes a difference. Figure out how much time you’ll need for each subject, and plan to cover a little bit each night. Break it down into manageable chunks so you have time to review and truly master each night’s worth of material. Schedule 30-50 minutes of focused studying at a time and then 10 minute breaks. Try to get back on track as soon as the break is over.
2. Use visual aids – for some people, a whiteboard can be a great tool. Write notes on the board that summarize the material. You can pretend you’re doing it for someone else. This helps you take clearer and neater notes since you can’t rely on yourself to decipher poor handwriting and cryptic information. Try drawing pictures as you go through the material, which may help your concentrate and also make the material feel more dynamic. Be artistic! Have fun! Use color! This may help you focus more effectively on the content. You might color code the material, using red for certain types of content, blue for others, and so on.
3. Break down the material – you can also try to break down the material on index cards, so if you have 200 pages to study, you might put a summary together that fits on 20 index cards. Having 20 index cards instead of 200 pages to review will enable you to review it multiple times and master the material more quickly.
4. Do your research – a lot of professors post content online, and yours may have posted old tests or practice tests on the internet. Google the name of the class and teacher and see what comes up. In addition to studying the textbook and mastering the material, testing yourself with practice questions is an important part of the process. This way, you can see if your studying has translated into an ability to quickly answer test questions on the topic.
5. Remove distractions – if you can turn off your phone completely while you are studying, that would be best. If you need access to it, turn off email and social media notifications so you won’t be tempted to respond or click on anything. Consider using a blocker app to block out anything that’s not absolutely necessary for studying. This can be used on your phone, ipad and laptop.
6. Use common sense – eat breakfast the day of an exam and be sure to get enough sleep while you study. You will concentrate better if you are rested. It doesn’t help to stay up all night and then not be as sharp as you could be when it’s time for the exam.
7. Make it fun – teach the material to a “class” of stuffed animals. Saying it aloud and trying to explain it will help you assess your own knowledge. Another fun tip—leave a trail of candies or chocolates alongside important paragraphs in your textbook. If there is recorded text or podcasts as part of the material to be studied, re-listen to it at 2X speed to save time. It may sound strange, but this technique will help you cover the material faster.
8. Use mnemonics – you might also try creating mental mnemonics or hints that relate the material to something familiar. An example of a well-known math mnemonic device is used when finding the measures of angles in right triangles.
· SOH: Sine = Opposite leg divided by the Hypotenuse.
· CAH: Cosine = Adjacent leg divided by the Hypotenuse.
· TOA: Tangent = Opposite leg divided by the Adjacent leg.
9. Be strategic on exam day – if it’s a math exam, write down all the formulas at the beginning of the test so you won’t have to struggle to remember them as you go through the exam. Your mind is fresh right at the start so create that reference sheet before you begin the exam. Don’t forget to check over the entire exam after you finish. You may find answers you wish to change or remember bits of material the second time that you didn’t think of when you first answered the questions.
Follow these tips, enjoy the process of learning and you’ll be on track for success.