How to Study Properly

Surely people have their own ways of studying. I’ve used the flashcard technique, make-an-outline technique, and just-reread-the-whole thing technique. The thing is, a stellar grade in most college courses will heavily rely on just two exams, dubbed “Exam I” (or “Midterm”) and “Exam II” (or “Final”). That being said, and with Midterms upon us right now, there are ways to psychologically improve your study skills.

1. Stay motivated. You will most easily learn and absorb what is interesting to you. I get that not everything is interesting, but even pretending may help. The more enthusiastic you are, the more alert and attentive you will be while learning and studying. Motivation will also allow you to better balance life inside and out of school. You can increase your motivation by setting study goals and rewarding yourself when these goals are met. You can also study with other people, which promotes a drive in each of you.

2. Use your time efficiently. Obviously the more you review, the more you will remember for testing. However, merely reading a study guide over and over for a few hours the day before the exam is not very effective. Use time efficiently by setting up shorter study sessions, ideally every day for a week or two before the test is administered. Studies show that it is better to space study sessions out like so because the material is more likely to be consolidated in your memory (meaning it will be remembered for a longer amount of time).

3. Make connections to what you’re studying. The more personal connections you make to the material you’re studying, the better it will be remembered. Use mnemonic devices to connect technical terms or a list of things that are unrelated. Make outlines that allow the material to make sense to you. Material you can relate to emotionally will be remembered best. The more associations you can make with the material, the better it will be remembered.

4. Test yourself. Asking yourself questions on the material will force you to practice recalling what you’ve learned. The faster you can answer the questions, the more efficiently you will work on the exam. Testing yourself will also reveal what you don’t remember or what you don’t know, and you can go back and study exactly what you need.

5. Stay physically healthy. Get enough sleep, exercise, and eat healthy. Memories consolidate during sleep, and a sleep deprived student will have trouble concentrating. Exercise promotes neural growth and maintenance (a healthy brain). Lastly, studies show certain foods can enhance brain function (broccoli, walnuts, blueberries…) while others can hinder it. A healthy brain will surely do better on exams.

Keep these things in mind when studying for any more upcoming exams and then for those Finals.

Happy studying and good luck!