Having just had three midterms in the past four days, I think I can classify myself as a sort of expert in this kind of thing.
And now I’m about to pass my expertise down onto you guys, do with it what you will. These are the things I usually do to stay focussed and to actually get the information to stay in my brain when studying for tests. Let me say now that it’s a really good idea to study before the night before a test because you’re hardly going to retain any information like that, even with all the tricks in the world.
1. Figure out what kind of learner you are. This is super important when studying!! I cannot stress that enough! You could be totally visual, auditory, kinesthetic or any combo of the three in how you learn. This really affects how you should go about preparing your notes.
–> Lets say you’re more visual. You should definitely try to use lots of colours and flashcards because those things tend to stick in your mind better. I’m like this and I always colour code my notes and organize them on an unlined sheet of paper (why I am saying that in the singular, it was definitely a plural amount of paper) so that it’s really easy for me to physically picture the paper in my head and pretty much read off the information I wrote down from memory.
–> If you remember things by hearing them, you’re an auditory learner. If you’re really a go getter, you could totally record your lectures and listen to them later. Otherwise, just reading the textbook and/or your notes out loud to yourself, family or even pets helps ideas stick in your brain.
–> If you’re the type of person that can’t sit still in class, it’s likely that you’re a kinesthetic learner. I am also very much this. And I know how much it sucks to make yourself sit down and memorize stuff. That’s why I like to rewrite my notes. Yes, it’s pretty time-consuming (even though I do condense them quite a bit) because writing is moving and my brain seems to remember things once I’ve written them down rather than just looked at a paragraph of text. Also, by putting little notes all over the house with things you need to know means that you don’t have to be sitting down at your desk the entire time you’re studying. Whenever you go to the fridge, you can read your list of strong acids and bases. Every time you open your laptop, you’ve got your list of formulas necessary to memorize for calculations. Works like a charm.
2. Set goals. When all you have on your to do list is “study”, not a lot is going to get done. By breaking up everything you need to do into smaller, more manageable chunks, it makes it easier to stay on track. Seriously, if your closest goal is to just “know everything I need to know for this test” then, man, you’re doomed. Try things like “finish notes on this chapter” or “do every second example on page 455” or even “understand this one concept” because not only does tell you exactly what you have to do but you feel a little more motivated every time you finish something, no matter how small it is!
3. Reward system. Related to the above tip, treat yourself!! Let’s say you’re kind of hungry and there’s a container of strawberries in the fridge you would just love to demolish. Instead of rationalizing your ability to both eat something messy and stay focussed on the task at hand (which obviously you won’t do) just tell yourself that after you finish this one thing, then you get to go feed yourself guilt-free! Works with watching an episode of your favourite show or chilling with your pet. You’ll be really excited to go do whatever it is that you’ll just have to finish what you set out to do first.
4. Schedule. When you plan out your day/study time, it’s a lot easier to stay on top of things. You can set expected times to be finished with certain things and can even schedule in free time in there. That way it’s not 1am with you wondering where the time went.
5. Examples! Some things are pretty much just memorizing (looking at you, bio) but other things are just practical applications of skills. There are infinite situations that can arise and it’s next to impossible to have them all memorized so the best thing you can do is examples. By repeatedly using the same method tweaked a little bit for each question you try out, it becomes all the more easy for your brain to recognize what to do in that kind of situation or something similar. (I’m looking at you, integration)
6. Background music. Definitely put on music if you’re the kind of person that listens to music while studying but be careful about what kind of music it is! I know you really like Elle Me Dit by MIKA but do you really think you can quietly read your notes while the music is begging to be danced around to. And don’t even think about Disney soundtracks because there is no way in heck that you won’t break out singing to Let It Go. I suggest quiet music that doesn’t really demand to be heard like Owl City’s quiet songs or wordless soundtracks. (The How To Train Your Dragon one is phenomenal)
6. If you’re going to procrastinate, do something useful. With all these previous tips, I’m making it sound like I am the jedi master of studying and nothing ever gets to me. Could not be more opposite! For instance, I’ll be writing blog posts or thinking of hilarious tweets when I should really by thinking about differential equations. And I’ve been known to discover new music instead of memorizing the properties of inverse matrices. But my advice to you is that should you find yourself in a situation when you just physically cannot make yourself be productive school-wise, be productive elsewhere! Make your bed! Make a sandwich! Make a scarf! Yes, you’re not studying by something good still came from it and you will feel 400% less horrible about yourself than if you just sat staring at your papers or playing flappy bird. Trust me.
So there you have it! My surprisingly long-winded post regarding everything I know about shoving information into your head so that you can later regurgitate it onto a test! Let me know if you find anything helpful or if you have some super secret technique that I didn’t mention here!
//If you’re nowhere in the mood to study and nothing can change your mind, check this post about Procrastination Tips out