This is the month of mid-terms for many university students. I’ve been finished school for many years now, but while I was in university I picked up a lot of great strategies for studying for exams. My toughest subject was History of Science – great course and professor, but understanding the science component was tricky for me (communications and English might have come naturally to me, but it was a whole other thing when I entered the math and science realm!). That was the class that I really had to put my studying practices to good use, and it certainly paid off.

My best tips for studying for an exam:

  • Set aside the time for it. Plan for proper study time – don’t just do it on a whim while you’re on the bus!
  • Bring together all of your notes and re-read them. Presumably, you took notes for a reason. Go back through them again! Re-write them as needed, and get out a highlighter and a red pen for the key points.
  • Use flash cards. If you start studying far enough in advance, you can get fancy with your flash cards and color code them and put a question on one side and an answer on the other. Otherwise, keep it simple: just write a few main points on each card, or just a single question, and make sure that you can answer it fully or expand as you might need to on an exam.
  • Make full use of your space. Pace around the room if you need to (that’s one of my personal favorites). You might also want to use your hands to draw out complicated diagrams in the air (this worked really well when studying for my History of Science class!), or even act out things to help you re-learn and remember them.
  • Create mnemonic devices. If you need to remember a series of terms, use acronyms and create silly sentences using the first letter of each word to help you with word association. A word of caution: these are no good if you forgot the terms you’re supposed to remember! This worked for some of my classes, but it’s best used as a supplementary learning tool.
  • Get a study buddy. Studying for History of Science was made so much better because I studied with a girl in my class. We were both at the same level for that class, so it made studying together beneficial for both of us. Generally if one of us didn’t understand something, the other did, and vice versa. That was the only class that I ever had a study buddy, and it can be tricky to find someone you can really study with and learn a lot with, but don’t be afraid to study with a few different people to see who works best with your learning style.
  • Once you’ve got a good handle on the subject, THEN you can start thinking about it on the bus. When you feel like you’ve got a really good foundation or base on studying for the exam, now is the time to go through it in your head while you’re waiting in line, etc. At this point, you should be at a level where you can think of most of it while you’re running through the questions in your head (although it’s also a good idea to bring a cheat sheet with you if you need it!). This will be a good practice for the exam itself.
  • Understand how YOU learn best. Ultimately, different studying practices are going to work better for different people. Figure out what works best for you and make sure you use it to the fullest!

What are some of your studying techniques? Share in the comments section below!

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