Facing the Final: Tip #4 for Exam Success – Study Methods


There is no one “right” way to study. It really depends on what you’re studying for, how you learn, how much time you have, etc. Most people develop a system that works best for them, and then alter it as needed!

System 1: Hands On And/Or The Outline
Some people learn kinetically. That is, they don’t absorb simply by reading material. They need to be hands-on. Exams, especially in the Bachelor of Arts program, are rarely hands-on. In this case, these people might learn best by rewriting notes in a shortened, outline style format. Rewrite the notes with main headings and subheadings to show how topics relate to one another, and use point form to jot down important facts, vocabulary, etc. Then spend time going over the outline, learning it through and through.

System 2: The Q&A
Others prefer to answer questions to practice what they know. If old tests are available, those can be very useful tools, obviously. Some textbooks have great question sections. Some instructors give out sample questions that you might see on the exam. If none of the above apply, it’s time to do a little more work. Go through the textbook/notes and make your own questions. Then practice answering those.

This method lends itself well to studying in groups. You can trade questions and go over answers with other group members, which is always useful since others are more likely to come up with questions you wouldn’t have thought of and so don’t know the answer to ahead of time. You can also get a friend who knows nothing about the class to ask you questions from the textbook/notes, and you can answer them yourself. Excellent practice for the exam.

System 3: The Student Becomes the Teacher
Another very useful way to learn material is by teaching it to somebody. You can do this either with other classmates or with a friend who knows nothing about the class. Explain concepts to them, define vocabulary, discuss issues and opinions. Get them to interact and ask questions back or delve  if you didn’t explain something thoroughly enough. This back-and-forth is a great way to ensure you know the material inside out.

System 4: Memorize
Some people really have a photographic memory, or close enough to it, that they can go through their notes, memorizing them in entirety. This doesn’t ensure you understand the concepts – but if your notes are detailed enough and this is how you remember best . . . then go for it!

System 5: Cram It!
Well, we all know that cramming is not the best method of studying, the brain does not retain the information effectively, etc, etc. But let’s face it. If you have six exams in five days, there may not be adequate time for you to prepare at your leisure. When worst comes to worst, you may just have to cram. In this case, make as little work for yourself as possible. Go through the notes/textbook first. Cross everything out that you already know just from showing up in class and being a reasonably intelligent individual. You may surprise yourself with how much you already know and how much help a really quick review can be. Things you somewhat understand and could likely figure out on the test you can skim over. Concepts that are trickier or more in-depth you can then spend most of your time focusing on.

However, if time is REALLY an issue, and you’re really overtired, and your brain is packed too full to even do this, then cram the easy stuff. Focus on the fact that you’ll get the easy questions at least, and for the tougher ones, you’ll just have to use what’s left of your brain power!

The important thing is to study. It doesn’t matter how – take some time to think about what methods work best for you and for the particular class and for your particular situation and type of exam.

And . . . . GOOD LUCK!

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