Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ask Isa: 3 study strategies that helped me get 100's on exams

From the Ask Isa inbox:

Dear Isa,

This semester has started and my classes are pretty hard already. I looked at my syllabus for each class and I notice there are a lot of days where I have two or three tests from each class on the same day. 

How do you manage to study WISELY for tests that are packed on the same day? What type of study habit do I need to go through? I've never been in a situation like this.


Too Many Tests

Dear Too Many Tests,

This is a great question to ask - as exams can often fall in the same day, especially at the end of the semester. 

Below are the three things I did to manage many tests. 

I became a master test taker - me, who did NOT get a good SAT score. But I often got 100's on my tests using the methods below. I really hope they help you as much as they helped me - because one of the best feelings in the world is approaching test day with confidence. 

1) Study every day
There wasn't a day in college that I didn't study. And no, I didn't spend hours and hours in the library. And yes I did have a social life. When I say "study" I don't mean staring at your textbook for hours. That doesn't work. 

Instead, I developed a habit of getting to every class at least 10 minutes early. During that time I would review the notes I'd taken so far in that class, as well as scan the reading.  

During these short reviews if there was something that wasn't easy for me to grasp I'd make a note of it and schedule time during my professor's office hours to ask about the concept.

That kind of studying never took more than one hour each day, and it made studying for the exams the week  before test week almost feel too easy.

2) Meet with a study group
Study groups aren't for everyone, but they were huge for me. The biggest mistake students make with study groups is thinking they will get major "studying" done during that time. 

The best study groups are the ones where you've already done all your studying before meeting with others. I would meet with a study group usually the day before a test. I'd often create flash cards or make up some sort of game we could play.

Then we would test each other and essentially "talk out" the test concepts. I loved it because it gave me an opportunity to reiterate what I knew and boost my confidence. As a social learner it also helped me to talk it out (but again, that depends on your learning style, this is just mine). 

Often others in my study group hadn't studied a lot before the meeting, which gave me the chance to be "teacher" which really helped. One of the best ways to embed the information is to teach it to someone else. 

3) Relax the day of the tests
Cramming for a test does not really work. If you've spread out your studying over the semester you should be set up for a relatively relaxing test day.

Intensify your studying the week before the test and schedule time in the library every day to study. And again, don't just stare at the book. Create practice tests for yourself, use when relevant, and build activities for yourself to test your knowledge so you can check what you know and what you still need to work on. 

Study early enough so that you have time to talk with your professor and/or go to the tutoring center for any concepts you're struggling with. 

It's vital to do all this BEFORE the day of the tests. 

On the day of it's best to let your brain relax so you're not stressed; you've done all the work and test day is just the time to reap the benefits.

Get at least eight hours of sleep. Eat a big, healthy breakfast. Take a walk or do some stretching. Listen to your favorite music as you drive or walk to the class. Arrive a few minutes early. And don't take out your notes that day.

Just sit in class and breathe as you wait for the exam to be passed out. You'll see everyone else frantically scanning their notes, and you'll be able to sit peacefully, knowing you're ready.

It's one of the best feelings in school. 

Good luck!! You can be a test master.

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