Written by ATHENA METAXAS
Each person has their own method of studying that works for them. As an upperclassman, however, I am often asked by underclassmen how I managed to get A’s in most of my science coursework. The method I detail below is what has worked for me for several years. It is time consuming, but what many students fail to realize is that extra time outside of lecture to learn the material properly is necessary. So without further ado, here are some tips I have for you:
1. Read your textbook before and after each lecture.
Professors assign a textbook and recommend additional resources for a reason. Reading up on the material beforehand will give you an idea of what to expect in lecture and you’ll be able to follow along. I also recommend at least skimming what you read before the lecture to reinforce what you have learned. This step does take up a lot of time, but because professors don’t necessarily say everything you need to know about a subject during lecture, it behooves you to do the reading. It is way better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
2. Do the homework and any additional problems assigned to you.
I personally do not like the expression “practice makes perfect.” I prefer to have the mindset that “practice makes permanent.” Doing homework problems is just that. Usually homework is part of your overall grade in most natural sciences courses, so you’re likely to have to do it anyway. I’ve had some classes where there wasn’t homework to turn in, but the professor recommended book problems. DO THEM. Many times, problems similar to the ones in the book will be on your exam, so if you’ve done the practice problems, then you’ll be able to do the ones on the test.
3. Make an outline of the subject material before each exam.
Making outlines is a great way to summarize the material, and I often find that when I write something down, I tend to remember it. Typing up an outline may seem easier, but there’s nothing like the pain of handwriting outlines to make you remember what you wrote down. Try to be succinct in your outlines and include more pictures and diagrams than text. Instead of lugging around the textbook the day of your test to do some last minute studying, having your outlines is much more convenient.
4. Do NOT wait until right before the exam or final to learn the material.
Honestly, this is the most common mistake I see students make. Putting off learning the material right before the test is extremely stressful, especially if you have multiple exams during the week. Cramming all of that information into your brain the day or night before the test does not allow your brain to register that information long-term.
5. Get a good night's sleep before your exam.
I know you want to just stay up all night and try to study as much as you can, but by doing so, you are doing more harm than good. Your brain and your body need to rest as much as possible in order to function properly the day of the exam. I have taken a couple of exams on as little as three hours of sleep and I could have done so much better on them had I slept well the night before. All of that studying you did into the wee hours of the morning will be for naught if you can’t even focus properly the day of your exam.
Again, this method of learning material and studying for an exam is what works for me. What works for me may not work for you, but I believe that the last two steps are what everyone should be doing when preparing for exams. Less stress while studying = a more happy, healthy you. This I truly believe, even as cheesy as it sounds.