1. Prepare in class. Ideally, you have read the books, listened attentively in class, asked brilliant questions and taken copious notes. On the other hand, if you are taking a giant standardized test, you have done all the things necessary (besides actually study) to prepare.
2. Prepare your study area. Get your notes, books, highlighters, pens, stickynotes, notepads and flashcards together. Find an area that works for you. Avoid places like coffee shops if you tend to get distracted. If possible, pick a place you can call “study home,” so you do not have to waste time gathering up your stuff every time you study.
3. Create a study schedule. Decide which topics you will study when. Dividing tasks is especially valuable when conquering multi-subject tests, such as standardized tests, as well as entrance and exit exams. Make sure to build in breaks to eat and relax. Read on for more information of how to fill in your study schedule.
4. Preview before you study. Before you start a study session, preview what you will study that day. Do this by looking over the outline of a book chapter or your notes. Write the outline out or say it aloud if it helps you. The purpose of this is to get a general grasp of the material you will cover. Spend about 15 minutes to one-half hour previewing each day.
5. Study. Read through your notes or books in detail. Fill in gaps in the notes and take new notes when appropriate. During this time, you can make flashcards or lists of tricky vocabulary or concepts.
6. Incorporate output activities into every study session. Depending on how you learn, this can be from 25 to 50 percent of your study time. “Output” means actively working through practice questions, writing concepts down from memory, presenting the information to a study buddy or friend or quizzing yourself from your flashcards or some other way. The important thing is to practice focused output, where you rely only on your memory.
7. Review after each study session to help convert information stored in the short-term memory into longer-term memory. Always leave about a half hour to review what you studied that day before you go to bed. If you made flashcards, read over them. Skim your outlines. Glance through that book chapter once more. This should be the information you studied that day and it is important that you do this right before you go to sleep.
8. Review weekly.If you have planned and are not cramming for your big exam, you should review the week’s study notes at the end of every week. This is yet another way to get those short-term memories converted into longer-term memories.
9. Cram only in emergencies and preferably not for big exams. If you must cram, try to make it rare, because it is not very healthy and you generally will not retain the information after the test. Pick the highest yield material only (that’s the stuff that the instructor talked about more than once and had you read about) and then study only about 80 percent of that. If you only have a night or two, that likely means some caffeine and sleep-deprivation will be necessary. For cramming, skip the studying and head straight to rote memory, with lots of repetitious output. You will not be retaining this information for the long, but you might retain enough in your short-term memory for the exam.