Mid-terms and big tests are coming up meaning it’s time to hit the books and start studying! I was never really a big study person in high school because I didn’t really take super difficult classes. College was a big reality check because I needed to learn how to study and FAST or else I wasn’t going to make it. I’ve taken multiple tests since college began and I’ve finally nailed down the formula to study for the three most common tests out there!
Need a place to study? Check my post on 10 Great Places To Study That Aren’t Your Bedroom
For Knowing Terms
Start Studying Early/Frequently
If you know your test is in a week, start studying now. Seeing the information over and over again will help you retain all of the information you’re studying. For me, studying frequently is as easy as looking over my terms every day for a few minutes. Whether it’s during lunch, before class, or at night before I go to bed. Eventually, you will start recognizing the terms quicker and the information will start sticking.
If I need to remember certain key phrases of a definition or word, I make an acronym! Acronyms are invented combinations of letters to help you remember a certain phrase or list of items. For example, ever heard of Roy G Biv? It sounds like a name, but it really stands for the orders of the colors of the rainbow! Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet! That’s much easier to remember than the list of all the colors. You can use acronyms to remember the order of planets, numbers, patterns, or even the order of presidents!
Flash Card Leitner System
We’re going old school, but flash cards really do help. You can just look at all the information on the cards and quiz yourself, but try using the Leitner system. It’s studying flash cards, but whenever you miss a term, you put the card closer to the front of the pile to review it again. While terms you get right consistently, you put at the back of the pile. This way, you’re reviewing the items you’re missing the most more frequently to help you memorize and get them right the next time!
Study Small Groups Of Information
I use this way specifically for flash cards and multiple choice tests, but you can use it for multiple ways. Currently, I have a test in political science where I have to memorize over 100 terms. Instead of studying all 100 at the same time, break it into groups. Instead, I study 10 terms at a time. I do this by using flash cards, taking practice multiple choice tests on quizlet.com, writing out the short answer questions, etc. Memorizing 10 terms at a time is much easier than all 100. When I master the 10, I move onto the next group of 10 terms, and so on. Don’t forget to go back and review the information you’ve gone over just to make sure you’ve mastered it.
Quizlet.com is a super great website if you’re trying to study for a test. You can make flash cards, take practice tests in all different forms including short answer, multiple choice, matching, true/false, etc. Before every political science test, I make a quizlet for all the terms so I can study as class goes along. There’s also an app in the app store for it so you can take studying on the go!
Write the information 5 times each
Again, for memorizing terms, repetition is the way to go. If flash cards don’t seem to work, try writing down the term and definition a few times in a row. Seeing the information visually on paper and writing it will resonate with your brain a lot more effectively. I did this a lot for English classes when I had to remember literary devices.
The best way to really know if you know a term or idea is if you can teach it or explain it to other people. Have a friend or family member ask you to explain certain terms and see if you can. If you can’t, this may show you what you’re needing to study up on.
Have to lock down for a study session? Check out my post How To Prepare For Your Next Library Study Binge
Know the How and Why
The best way to know you’ve got a short answer question down is to know the how and the why of the topic at hand. If you have to write a paper about a president, know who he is, but also, know how he was important to society, and why his actions impacted America. This all depends on the essay/short answer you’re given, but if you know those two things about each term/question, you should get the majority of it right.
Thankfully, my history class gives us essay example questions that may appear on the test. If you have this resource, use it, and start practicing your essay. Write multiple versions of this essay as well, and don’t be afraid to ask your professor if you’re going in the right direction. Before the last test, I brought my practice essay to my professor to look over. He gave me some really great tips that helped my final essay be even better than the practice one!
Draw It Out
When writing an essay or short answer question, knowing how terms and ideas connect is a great way to pull all the information together in a clean way. Most professors want to see what you know and how you can relate it to other material in class, so start mapping all the information together.
For example, There was a short answer question on my history test about how the Stamp Act impacted America. I linked it to the start of “No taxation without representation”, The Sons of Liberty, The Declaration of Independence, and the start of the Revolutionary War. I was able to link all these ideas together by showing the causes and effects of each. Don’t be afraid to draw out a mind map on paper and start linking terms together like this.
I think the best way write essays is seeing other’s past work to get an idea of what the professor is looking for. Seeing how an essay is structured on the topic and the points they bring up are great ways to inspire what to talk about in your essay. Definitely, do not copy another student’s work but if you like how the essay is structured or a specific point they bring up, use it and change it using your own words.
If you’re writing an essay over a book or reading, re-read the information the essay will be on and take notes on it. We do a lot of reading in my history class, and taking notes over every reading and highlighting the main points helps a ton. Take notes while you read so you don’t have to go over the information again, but it does help getting the information fresh on your mind.
For Multiple Choice
If you know what terms/questions are going to be on the test, start generating some practice quizzes and see what you know! I like to take quizzes before I study the terms just to see what I already have down. That way, I don’t spend my time studying information I already know and I can move onto the more difficult stuff I don’t.
Change The Format
This sounds confusing but bear with me. When I study/take practice multiple choice tests, I start to memorize the format the questions are in, meaning I’m not exactly memorizing the material. I just know what the question looks like. Changing the format of studying can help benefit you by seeing the material in multiple different formats, forcing you to actually know the information. You can take practice quizzes on Quizlet, then move to studying your notes, to fill in the blank questions, etc. This way you’re learning the material instead of memorizing the test format.
Know All Angles Of The Information
Instead of just knowing the term and definition, know all angles of that term. How does it apply to life, can you name an example of it? For example, take the term Stamp Act. Sure, you should know the definition; but it also wouldn’t hurt to know the date it was enacted, who it affected, how it was created, why, and how it affects us today. Knowing all angles of the information guarantees you’ll know something about it on the test.
How do you study for big tests? Leave a comment below!