Study Tips and Tools

Did you study all night long for your first college exam only to find out you completed failed it? Did you feel completely prepared for the test before but came out completely and utterly drained from any prior knowledge you thought you had walking in? Well, college tests are a lot different from the kinds of tests you had in high school. You can’t just cram the night before to ace your exams; college exams take lots of time and proper planning. Therefore, it is time to alter you study skills to better prepare you for the difficulties that are college level tests.

The very first thing you need to keep in mind every day while studying is to make sure you get an ADEQUATE AMOUNT OF SLEEP every night. Losing one night’s sleep can impair reasoning and memory for up to 4 days, so one all-nighter could JEOPARDIZE your performance of almost your whole midterms or finals week.

  • Sleep consolidates memory within 12 hours of studying the information.
    • Studying the most challenging material right before going to sleep as it makes it easier to recall it the next morning.
  • Sleep deprivation inhibits memory consolidation.

When studying, make sure to USE DIFFERENT METHODS to help you to better understand the material. Finding different ways to study the material leads to better retention, as it subconsciously helps our brains to find deeper patterns among the varied material. Certain methods include:

  • Note Taking: Handwriting your notes actually enhances your encoding of the material, and therefore your memory of the subject. Make sure you’re only writing down relevant information rather than copying from the book word for word.
  • Verbal Approach: There are many different ways to study verbally, such as simply repeating the information until you can say it without reading off your notes, putting into a song as a way to remember, or explaining the information to yourself or a friend.
  • Auditory Approach: Listening to yourself or a friend say the information over and over can help some to fully understand what they are trying to learn. Rewatching or listening to the professor’s lectures are also a good way to help one better retain the information.
  • Visual Approach: Using graphs, diagrams, flowcharts and most importantly mind map, is an excellent way to quiz yourself on your knowledge, and also be able to visualize all the links between concepts.
  • Find A Friend: Having a friend to study with can have its advantages when trying to learn new material. If you don’t understand a concept, they may explain it in a different way that may make more sense to you and vice versa. Explaining a concept to someone improves your own encoding of the concept and strengthens your ability to explain it again during your exam.
  • Test Yourself: Research shows that testing yourself can help improve long-term memory and our ability to retrieve important information when it is needed. Tests can help to show us what we know and understand what we still need to learn.

Everytime you sit down to study, it is important that you make sure to ELIMINATE ALL DISTRACTIONS. Being able to sit down and study for hours on end can be hard to do with all the distractions in the world, especially if your phone is sitting right next to you. Some simple ways to manage these distractions are to 1) find a quiet study spot that has limited traffic coming through, 2) control any noise that may be surrounding you with a soothing playlist and some noise cancelling headphones, 3) go ahead and turn off your phone as nothing beneficial to studying can come from it, and 4) don’t be afraid to let people know you’re studying so they won’t continuously disturb you or tempt you with offers to hang out.

Try to not wait until last minute to begin studying. Usually you will have three or four tests to cover all the material for the semester, so each test will have a lot of substance to it. As soon as you are aware of the test date, begin WEEKLY REVIEWS of the notes taken that week in order to start preparing for the test, so there’s no need for cramming as the test day approaches. Rewrite any lecture notes if they are too messy or disorganized. Organize your notes into binders or file folders. Make SUMMARY NOTES on the important concepts and information. Look at how the material covered relates to the course as a whole.

Technology can be a great help while studying, too. Google Calendar will help keep you organized. Apps like Wunderlist and Evernote will help keep your to-dos and notes organized from your phone to your laptop. will play music that will help you focus on your work. If you’re the type that can’t help but check your Facebook or Instagram, install distraction blockers like Freedom or the Google Chrome add-on Stay Focused. If you’re working on that thirty page paper for you history class, take advantage of Google Drive to make sure all your hard work is backed up in case coffee accidentally spills all over your computer. If you’re the type that loves flashcards to help you study, try Quizlet – full of games to help you study and an easy way to keep all your flashcards organized. Other study tools that are worth checking out: Wolfram Alpha, Khan Academy, and Scannable.

Becoming accustomed to studying can be a long and tedious process, but once you get the hang of it and discover which study methods work the best for you, it becomes a lot simpler and a lot more efficient. With these tips, there’s no reason why you can’t ace your tests!


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