By: Jaclyn Kotora, Editorial Staff (‘23)

The stress of rummaging through your notes and reviewing the study guide before an exam is a feeling I am sure many are familiar with. Studying is one of the essential skills that you need, but you might not want to do. Putting time and effort into not just remembering, but understanding the concepts, is key to earning a good grade. Here are 4 study tips to help you on your next exam:

  1. Do not pull an all-nighter

 I am sure many people have heard of this tip before, but waiting to study the night right before an exam is not the best method. You can only absorb so much information in such little time, and while you may memorize some things in that time frame, to understand the topic at hand in more depth, you have to space out your studying over multiple days. Teachers base exams on understanding and application of that knowledge, and simply memorizing, generally, will not be very helpful on an exam. Understandably, time can be limited, and one might not have the ideal amount of time to study. If time doesn’t permit it, make sure to try your best to pay attention and take good notes in class to absorb the information as it is given to you so you have to study less later. The more information you absorb, the less you will have to re-learn the material later— instead, it will just be a refresher.

  1. Write it out

This method helps to retain information and is a refresher on topics from earlier on that may have been forgotten. I like to rewrite and organize my notes before a test because it makes me re-read the material, while also having to comprehend the information when I am writing it and organizing it. While skimming your notes may refresh you on some topics, a majority of the material is usually forgotten by the time you take the exam. Simply re-reading books and notes is not only tedious, but it doesn’t help you as much. As Mark McDaniel, an American psychology researcher, explains, re-reading is like looking at the answer to a puzzle rather than doing it yourself. So while you may think you understand the topic at the time, when you take the exam you may not understand it at all. However, when you write it out, your brain processes and comprehends it better than simply reading. 

  1. Practice makes perfect

Like with anything, whether it be a sport or instrument, practice makes perfect. Trying example problems from textbooks and worksheets, or redoing an assignment allows you to be more comfortable with the topic and learn from your mistakes. Quizlets, flashcards, and worksheets are some of the many effective ways to practice material. Mix it up though—do not just go over the same flashcards over and over again— try incorporating different methods and concepts into your practice. When you repeat the same practice over and over again, eventually, your brain comes to expect it, and your attention and brain stimulation wanes. 

  1. Finding a time and place

As hard as it is, try to limit your distractions when you are studying by going into a separate room, turning off or putting away devices, and being comfortable. If music helps you concentrate, then play some music that will motivate you to study but will not distract you. If you need a snack to get you focused and bring your energy up, make yourself a quick snack. If taking a walk will make you more mindful, then take a short stroll to get your energy up and mind ready. Find out what works best for you, and create an environment to study in that will allow you to study.

It is all about figuring out what methods work best for you and your situation; some methods may be more helpful for some people than others. If a certain studying way is not working, try a different one or modify your current one. In the end, effort is key—if you don’t put in the time and energy to really prepare and always wait until the last minute to study, you may not get the grade you hoped for. While some of these tips do require more time than others, these methods ultimately help you remember and understand the material better, helping you achieve your desired results.