Is it just me or has the spring semester been flying by? I have a theory that the older your get, the quicker the time goes. I feel like my junior year has been going so quickly and I sorta wish time would slow the heck down! I can’t believe it’s almost time for midterms. I hate taking exams, but I think I’ve gotten pretty good at managing my study time and figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t. I know that not everyone’s study habits are the same so these tips won’t work for everyone, but I do enjoy sharing the things I’ve learned over my past few years as a college student with all of you!
Go to class and do the work.
This one should be a given, but it’s amazing how many college students skip class and don’t do ANY work and then complain about how they are failing (and even blame the professor?!) I’ll never ever understand it. Just go to class, people. That’s step 1.
Prepare in advance.
I hate doing this as much as the next guy, but it seriously helps SO MUCH when you study a little bit at a time. For example, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about my neuroscience class here on the blog. For that class, I’ve made sure to read the textbook chapters before my professor even lectures on them so I have a good grasp of concepts (or I’ve at least HEARD the terms before). It helped me so much! Ditto with making flashcards/study guides. I used to wait until the last minute to make flashcards or study guides and then I’d waste the whole evening MAKING the study tools and never really getting to use them. Now, I make my flashcards as I’m reading the chapter and it helps me a lot when I’m hitting the home stretch right before an exam.
If you can’t prepare in advance, choose wisely.
Not all of us are model students (myself included, 90% of the time) so it’s hard to make sure you’re studying every day up until it’s exam time. If you have a solid week before your midterm/exam, be sure to outline what you believe are the most important things to study and focus a lot of your energy on those things.
How do I know what’s important, though? First, I would look over any study guides or tips your professor has given you either on Blackboard or in class. From those study guides, I would figure out what you’ve been having the most trouble with and zero in on that. If your professor doesn’t give study guides, I would try to focus on the things they talked the most about in class and consider that the “meat” of the exam.
Use a study tool.
Whether that’s a homemade study guide, index cards, neatly written notes, or Quizlet is up to you! Find a study tool that works best for you and utilize it to it’s fullest potential. I just started using index cards this semester when previously I was a devoted study guide maker. I think the most important part of studying is not WHAT you study it’s HOW you study. Spend some time figuring out what method works the best for you and get to it! Another thing that I’ve recently been loving is COLORING to help you study! I bought a neuroscience coloring book and it has been so much fun and also really helpful.
Form study groups.
Sometimes it’s nice to get a group of classmates together to study. I wouldn’t recommend this method as your only way of studying as it could be distracting, but I think there is definitely some value to studying with a group of your peers. You can bounce ideas off of each other, talk through some topics, and I also believe it’s beneficial to learn how other students study. It took me a really long time to figure out what study method worked best for me!
Keep your notes organized and your index cards all in one place. I like to write out “study plans” in my planner. It helps me narrow down what I need to do and when. I also write out what chapters I should be reading so I don’t forget!
Don’t forget about Google.
Google can be your best friend when studying for exams. If there’s something you don’t understand (especially when it involves any sort of science-y thing) chances are there’s a great YouTube video explaining the process a different way using pretty visuals! There are so many different types of learners, it’s hard for professors to cater to each and every one of us (even though they usually try!) Google can be a great way to find that missing piece of the puzzle that will help you go from partially understanding to fully understanding and applying the concepts!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Seriously. After working with a professor last semester as a Teacher’s Assistant, I learned that professors really just want to help you. They don’t like failing students and if you come to them for help they will realize that you are trying and that’s BIG. It’s amazing how many students are so afraid of speaking to their professors that they wait until the very last minute and by then it’s too late. Don’t be that student! Be brave enough to admit that you’re struggling and ask for help. You got this!