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How to Study Effectively
It’s a feeling we’re all familiar with: there’s a test coming up soon, and you’re feeling nervous about doing well. Whether it’s a quiz or big exam, all tests can be scary in their own ways, but fear no more because this handy guide provides strategies to help you study smarter and learn more effectively!
Before starting to study, you should identify what needs to be studied. Make sure you know what topics you’ll be tested on, and if you’re not sure, ask a person who does know—such as your teacher. Once you know, you can build the rest of your studying strategy on it. Also you should know what you can expect from different types of tests—for example, exams, which are longer and may contain a variety of question types (such as multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions), and quizzes, which are shorter and take less time. Knowing what to expect will help you prepare.
Next find a good place to study. Look for a space that is quiet, comfortable, well-lit, and, importantly, free from distractions (such as a TV and your phone). Once you’re in your study space, you need to manage your time wisely. Holing yourself up in your room for six hours straight or staying up all night to cram for an exam isn’t the best way to study—in fact, you’re much more likely to end up feeling tired, have trouble staying focused, and experience difficulty remembering what you studied. Instead, try building in a 15-minute break for every hour of study time. Spend your break doing something refreshing: take a walk or eat a healthy snack. And try to resist the temptation of looking at your phone—you’ll feel more relaxed and focused if you spend your break “unplugged.”
Your next task? Find ways that will promote learning. Learning well is your key to remembering and recalling what you’ve learned—which means better performance and higher grades! Try out the following strategies for studying. They’re proven to be effective for learning and retaining information:
- Read key passages out loud instead of reading them silently to yourself. Reading out loud will help you to learn and understand information faster. Both seeing and hearing the information can help you memorize it.
- Take notes by hand and give your laptop or tablet a break. It may take a little longer, but putting ideas in your own words will help you process them more effectively.
- Summarize information. Summarizing shows that you understood the overall meaning of the passage you’re studying.
- Synthesizing information takes a bit more brain power, but it can promote idea formation as you consider different information, ideas, and opinions in drawing your own conclusions.
- Use mnemonic devices. These are clever ways to remember. They often take the form of acronyms, and they summarize information in a way that helps you recall that information. Examples include “Roy G. Biv,” which is a name used to remember the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. A popular mnemonic you may have used in math class is “FOIL,” which is used to multiply binomials in order: First, Outer, Inner, and Last.
- Using flashcards is a great way to learn and commit information to memory. For example, looking at a vocabulary word on one side of a flashcard and trying to remember the definition on the other side will strengthen your memory better than if you simply stared at the definition in your textbook or onscreen.
- Practice tests are a great way to reinforce learning and memory. After each study session, complete a short (say, four-to-six question) quiz on the material you just studied. If you’re in a study group, have one of your classmates assess you.
These tips and strategies will be very effective if you put them into practice each and every time you study. And don’t forget, even when it comes to studying, practice makes perfect! Keep up the good work, and your learning journey will be all the better for it.