If you are going through high school, college, or university, then you will definitely want to learn how to study for a test or exam. After all, the reason for why you are attending an academic institution in the first place is to get high marks and eventually find your way into the work place, both of which are not possible unless you follow a study strategy that can work around your schedule.
Studying for a test is something that not a lot of students pay attention to, although it is a critical skill to master if you are serious about your academic career and that of your career prospects.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the best strategies that you can use in order to master the art of studying for a test. These techniques have been used by a countless number of students around the world to vastly increase their performance in academics, so we’re sure that you’ll find something here that to make your final grades better.
How to study for a test: what to avoid
Before diving into the main content of how to study for a test or exam, we’ll first begin by pointing out some common pitfalls that students of all ages find themselves in.
These pitfalls come in many shapes and sizes, and may even come in the form of convenient shortcuts that are a sure thing. We can promise you first of all, that there is no easy way out when it comes to studying; you’re going to have to do some work, and you’ll likely need to work hard if you want better grades.
There are no magic pills or overnight success stories offered here, only techniques and strategies that are verified to get results.
Below you will find some key things to watch out for and avoid while studying for a test.
- Waiting too long to begin studying: Everyone knows that having to study for a subject that you are not particularly passionate about can seem boring and arduous. Procrastination sets in here, and ‘tomorrow’ also seems more appealing than the present moment to actually get to work. The key thing to remember here is that the longer you wait to being studying for a test, the harder it’s going to be for you. The more time it takes for you to get started, the less time you’ll have to fully absorb the key concepts. It’s always best to start early and resist the temptation to procrastinate or put off the work you need to do.
- Studying with music, social media, or other distractions: Your mind can really only focus on one thing at a time. Having music in the background or hearing the incessant pings of your Facebook or Twitter feed is only going to make it hard for you to focus on the task at hand. You may be amazed at how much easier it is for you to cram when you only have your textbooks in front of you. The less temptations you present yourself with the easier your life is going to be as a student.
- Not using mentors, tutors, or study groups: There are more than practical implications for why classes are taught in a group setting; people are social animals at heart, and learning is more conducive when there’s a social setting. To put it simply, you absolutely need a support network of friends and other students, as well as teachers and mentors if you want to get the highest grade possible. Learning by yourself simply slows the whole process of absorbing and retaining information down, which is usually a matter of pride for most students. Our advice is to avoid this common pitfall and reach out to those who can help you the most, which will usually be your fellow students or the workshops held by your college, high school, or university.
How to study for a test: our top tips
Now that we have previously gone over the top three mistakes that students make when they are studying, we will now examine our top tips for students who want to get the best grades possible on their exams.
As stated previously, there are no fancy gimmicks or shortcuts offered here. We have only included the tried and tested methods that are reliable to use, as they are based on the immutable laws of hard work and plain common sense.
By putting these tips and ideas into practice, you’ll be able to transform into a disciplined student who is well rewarded for your expertise not long into your future career.
- Study when you’re tired: There is sufficient evidence to suggest that the brain is able to retain more information when you are fatigued. It’s advisable to study at least for a few minutes before you hit the sack, as what you review just before you sleep will stay longer in your unconscious mind.
- Use spaced repetition: Although our minds are powerhouses for sorting and storing information, there is only so much that one can retain before they experience an overload of information. It’s always better to make studying a consistent habit of yours instead of trying to remember everything at once.
- Tell a tale: For most people, using simple story, acronym, or mnemonic can work wonders for memorizing complicated ideas. By associating a simple to remember story that stands out in your mind with your course content, you’ll be able to recall that information faster and more easily. A good example of this the mathematical operations PEMDAS, which could be remembered with: Phillip (P) wanted to eat (E) his friend Mary (M) but he died (D) from arsenic (AS) poisoning.
- Move around often: Sitting in one spot for an extended period of time is not only unhealthy for your body overall, but it can make the whole studying experience seem stale and less involving. There is also clinical evidence to suggest that by regularly changing your environment, you are able to prime your unconscious mind for better memory retention when it comes to sitting your exams.
- Test Yourself: Part of studying for a test requires being responsible for your own learning. You should be completing all of the exercises that can be found in your textbooks or online lectures, as well as completing as many practice and mock exams that you can find. If these resources are unavailable, make your own. Putting your knowledge into practice is a sure fire way of knowing that you’ll be fit for sitting the real thing.
- Read the content out loud: Similar to writing, verbalizing the content that you are studying for can give you new perspectives that you had not considered before, as well as the advantage of forcing your mind into thinking about what you are saying. There are some studies that seem to show better results for students who read what they’re studying out loud, as it works to prompt one’s attention.
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking lots of water works to benefit your brain in numerous ways, as it nourishes the key parts of your mind that are responsible for cognitive processing and retention of information. If tap water isn’t your thing, then tea or coffee may also work as substitute to keep your mind alert and engaged with your coursework.
- Spoil Yourself: Studying for a test can be hard work, so it’s important to exercise equal amounts of self-discipline and lucrative incentives. You may find that if you simply force yourself to study for each session, you’ll find that you levels of self-motivation will dwindle. Relying on willpower alone can only work in the short-term, as you will find you have limited amounts of it. However, when you combine the carrot and stick together, you’ll have a much easier time when it comes to sitting down to do those long study sessions. Give yourself small rewards for each hour that you study, and make sure to congratulate yourself on the progress you’ve made so far.
- Plan and keep to a strategy: The way that you approach your studying time can be just as important as doing the work itself. Having a well-organized schedule will show exactly how much work you’ll need to do to get a good mark on your test. Without a plan or strategy, you are flying blind and putting your academic career at risk of negligence.
- Exercise and study: There is a direct correlation between your mind and your body. The better you look after your physical state, the better your mind will be able to respond to new information. If you go to the gym, you’ll naturally find yourself thinking clearer and at more depth than if you simply did nothing at all. Even doing something as simple as taking a short walk around your neighbourhood between breaks, or a few push ups in your room can make a world of difference to your cramming sessions.
- Consume plenty of omega-3: There is a variety of compounds that you brain needs in order to function at its highest level. One compound that is known to be especially effective in boosting one’s brain power is the Omega-3 fatty acid, which can naturally be found in fish, nuts, and olive oil. Not only will your mind feel sharper when consuming Omega-3 and Omega-6, they also have a relaxing effect on the body and mind, so you’ll feel less anxiety when it comes to sitting your exams.
- Take regular breaks: Similar to breaking down your study sessions into manageable chunks, you will also find that you brain needs space to recover and contemplate on the progress you’ve made so far. If you are a workaholic, then taking an extended break for a few hours, or even an entire day may seem unthinkable. But there’s only so much that your mind can handle at once. You may find your performance to actually diminish the harder you push yourself to study more, so having some rest days where you do nothing at all can and should be worked into your schedule.
- Learn from trial and error: Although the above tips make a great start for anyone who is interested in increasing the quality of their study times, they should be utilized and suggestions, not gospel or things that are guaranteed to work no matter what. What works for one person will not always be suitable for someone else and vice-versa. The best way of knowing for sure is by experimenting with different techniques and ideas until you find what works best for you.
Thanks for reading our list on how to study for a test and exam. We hope that you found this guide useful. These ideas have been curated from the experiences of many successful students around the world. Feel free to experiment with these ideas as you wish.
A final takeaway from this guide is that everyone’s experience with studying will differ, but there are some things that are universal for everyone, which includes:
- Make sure you leave yourself ample time to complete your coursework.
- Ensure you understand all of the content inside and out for each unit.
- You can never do too many practice tests and exercises.
- Find and seek a study group or mentor.
- Take care of yourself and have regular breaks. Incorporate rest days where you do nothing at all except relax.
- Plan and schedule your study sessions and stick to your commitments.
If you are still struggling with how to put a study plan or strategy into practice, then it would be advised to speak to your teacher, principle, or lecturer about this. There is absolutely zero shame in asking for help, and you may be surprised to learn that your mentors may be delightfully helpful in helping you design a study plan that works for you.
There are a variety of free study guides and examples that can be found online, and are sometimes offered as a free service through your school or university, so check them out.