College can be fun, but ultimately the main goal is getting great grades. Check out these 10 tips to improve your study methods for exams and ace your finals.
Moderate to severe test anxiety affects nearly 40% of students.
One of the most effective ways to reduce test anxiety is to prepare properly. Professors often tell their students that they should commit 2-3 hours to studying for every 1 hour of class time. Yet the average college student only spends 17 hours per week prepping for their classes.
But the quality of your study sessions is much more important than how long they last. If you want to make the most of your study time, it's a good idea to develop better study methods for exams.
Let's take a quick look at 10 studying tips that will boost your college exam scores!
1. Review Your Notes Within 24 Hours
In 1985, German philosopher Hermann Ebbinghaus developed The Forgetting Curve. The theory states that we forget almost half of what we learn if we fail to review the information within 24 hours. If we wait 30 days before reviewing, we only recall 2-3% of this information.
To maximize your retention, look over your notes the same day you take them. If you wait until the day before your exam to review, you'll have to relearn everything. Plus, you'll forget a significant portion of it by the time you actually take the test.
2. Practice Spaced Repetition
Thoroughly reviewing your notes as soon as possible is a good start. But spaced repetition is a learning technique that allows you to cement new information into your permanent memory. Adopting this approach is one of the key steps to improving your study methods for exams.
Spaced repetition involves recalling new material in short bursts every 1-2 days rather than looking over it several times in one day. After enough reminders, your brain will realize it must hold onto this information. This way, by the time your midterm exams roll around, you won't feel the need to cram anything.
3. Create a Study Timetable
Time management is an issue for many college students. But staying organized helps ensure you don't fall behind on your studying.
Start by putting together a study timetable for the semester. Focus on no more than 1-3 subjects per day to avoid overwhelming yourself.
There are plenty of free study planner apps you can choose from. For example, GoConcr has both a desktop and mobile version of their app to help you stay on track. My Study Life is another excellent option.
4. Write Your Notes out by Hand
Many of us type our notes out rather than using pen and paper. However, studies show that writing notes by hand is a much more productive approach. It boosts your conceptual understanding of class material.
Try to use your own words rather than copying the definitions your professor gives you. This forces you to be more creative, and it also helps you engage with the material more effectively.
If you already took notes on your laptop, copy them onto a sheet of paper, as well.
5. Try Active Recall
When reviewing, don't rely solely on passive processes such as reading notes or listening to lectures. This gets boring quickly.
Instead, force your brain to remember the information you just learned. This is a learning technique called active recall. It helps keep your brain engaged during a study session.
Use notecards when practicing active recall. Write questions on one side and answers on the other. But shuffle the notecards before every study session so they're never in the same order.
It's important to note that this is one of the best study methods for exams with fill-in-the-blank questions.
6. Eliminate All Distractions
If you want to minimize your study time, it's a good idea to stay away from your phone while studying.
Unsurprisingly, multitasking while learning leads to lower grades and increased study time. This may prevent you from soaking up all the information you read.
Aside from turning off your phone, there are a few other steps you should take. Choose a quiet space to study. Also, put away all materials from other classes, and never study in front of the TV.
7. Take Occasional Breaks
Long study sessions are often counterproductive. Eventually, it becomes difficult to concentrate on whatever you're doing.
To boost your focus, take a 2-5 minute break after every 20 minutes of uninterrupted study time. Set a timer to make sure you don't go over your allotted time.
During the break, move around a bit. Exercising while learning can actually improve your memory. Just don't dive into anything too intense.
Also, feel free to reward yourself by checking your phone. But once your break wraps up, go back to devoting 100% of your attention to your study material.
8. Study in Different Locations
You don't always have to study in the same place. In fact, alternating your study area from time to time may actually provide some serious benefits. One study found that changing locations helps people retain information more effectively.
Whether you're sitting in a parked car or a park bench, pull out your flashcards and practice for a few minutes. Not only does it help pass the time, but it also bolsters your chances of acing your next exam.
9. Stay Relaxed
Some studies show that stress may impair your memory. Therefore, when studying, it's important to maintain your cool.
Mindful meditation can help you stay relaxed, as it's shown to reduce anxiety. So, consider doing a short mindful meditation when you feel stressed out.
If meditation doesn't appeal to you, try listening to music that calms you down. Also, get out of the room and breathe if necessary.
10. Figure out Your Learning Style
According to the VARK model, there are four learning styles:
Auditory learners prefer sounds, whereas visual learners prefer images. Reading/writing learners prefer learning by reading and writing material. Finally, kinesthetic learners tend to prefer learning from real-life experiences.
Most people have more than one preference. But finding out your style can help you tweak your study methods for exams.
Final Thoughts on Improving Your Study Methods for Exams
Whether you're prepping for finals or midterms, the tips outlined above will prove to be useful.
But there are many other steps you can take to get more out of your studying time. For example, if you're an auditory learner, consider reading your notes out loud. Visual learners can also add images to flashcards.
Are you looking for more tips on how to survive college? If so, feel free to check out our blog!