After many many years of school (17 years to be exact), I feel like I’ve cumulated the best ways to study, at least for myself. To start off, let me tell you about my academic self. I am not some sort of genus at all. I am not that person who gets an A on every test and not someone who gets an A in every class. I can’t read something once or sit in a lecture taking notes and retain that information immediately. I wish more than anything that I could, I just can’t. I have to put in so much effort to actually learn material…it’s exhausting.
Everyone is different and everyone needs to study differently. Some people barely need to study and are completely fine and some people need to study for hours. Studying the same way as someone, might not be the most effective strategy for yourself. You need to find what works best for yourself. Today, I thought I would share what works best for me in regards of studying.
- Make Flashcards: Flashcards are my holy grail! They’re honestly one of the only ways I learn class material. For each class, I go through each lecture and basically write down the whole lecture on flashcards. Then, I go through each flashcard and memorize them. I start with memorizing six; then I will memorize another group of six; then I’ll go through all twelve of them to make sure I know everything I just learned; then I’ll memorize another six. This continues until I have memorized everything. It is very time consuming, but super effective.
- Find the Perfect Environment: Studying in my apartment, studying on campus, or studying in a coffee shop are all practical places for me. I can honestly study anywhere, which is a blessing. However, I know some people who can’t get anything done if they’re in their own room. Sometimes this happens to me too, so I get it. On the other hand, some people get way too distracted if they study in a public place. With a lot of people around, you can end up people watching or conversing with people you know. This is bad news for your studying. Honestly, you just have to be disciplined enough to not let distractions get to you.
- Eat Before You Study: Studying on an empty stomach is NOT fun. It’s also extremely distracting. When you’re hungry, all you can think about is food… right? Now add studying to that. You’re trying to learn all this material, but the only thing on your mind is food. Not a lot of learning will be done. Make sure you either eat before you start studying or make food to bring with you to study. You know you’re going to get hungry, so just be prepared.
- Study Alone: This tip is pretty controversial, but for me, it’s really important. I do not study well with other people. I find it really hard to focus because all I want to do is talk. I can maybe focus for 15 minutes until I start getting bored. I’ll bring up weekend plans or how much I hate that specific class or really anything to distract myself from the material. When I study alone, the only person I have to talk to is myself. I’m not going to have a conversation with myself because that’s weird. Therefore, I will get a lot more done when it’s just me.
- Ditch the Phone: Phone’s are the most evil things ever when it comes to studying. If I have my phone near me while studying, I find myself checking it every 10 minutes or so. And when I check my phone, I don’t just check it for a minute; I scroll through Instagram, text people, the whole shebang. When I really need to grind and get stuff done, I will chuck my phone on my bed (literally chuck it) or I’ll put it in my backpack, so I’m not tempted to check anything.
- Color Code: Colors are really appealing to one’s eye. I love to color code my notes. I will get a blank sheet of paper, go through lectures, and write down what I think are the most important things. I will use certain colors for different things. For example, I might write definitions all in pink, use purple to highlight key learning outcomes, write examples in blue, and highlight equations in yellow. This helps me see things more clearly and just helps me organize my notes. Then I can focus on each thing really well.
- Highlight and Write Notes on Practice Exams: Not every professor posts practice exams, but if they do, make sure to do them! Practice exams are so helpful. They give you a feel of what the actual exam is going to be like and sometimes you’ll find those questions on the actual exam. When I do practice exams, I highlight the key things in each question and mark off each answer if I think it’s wrong. I also think it is really helpful to write notes in the margins about the topic of each question. That way you can go through each answer and figure out why or why not it’s the correct answer.
- Draw Processes or Figures Multiple Times: I take a lot of science classes for my major, which means a lot of memorization of systems and mechanisms. Recently, I’ve had to memorize the whole glycolysis and TCA cycle for my Metabolism and Nutrition class. Glycolysis is this like 10 step process with enzymes and intermediates…it’s a lot to memorize. I printed out blank templates of both cycles and completed them each until I memorized everything. It was helpful to run through it multiple times because each time I would know a little bit more.
- Create a Schedule: Creating a schedule is so helpful. If I know I have an exam coming up, I’ll schedule when I want to complete other homework assignments a head of time, so I can get those done and just focus on the exam. I find it really satisfying when I can cross off an assignment and then eventually all the assignments and feel like I only have one thing left on my brain.
- Don’t Study an Hour Before the Exam: Some people study up until the exam because that’s what works for them. I can’t do that. It stresses me out so much. I feel like I don’t know enough and I need to learn so much more in that one hour, when in reality, I learned as much as I could prior. The hour before I just like to take time and relax and try not to focus too much on the upcoming test.
Studying is so hard honestly, but so important. How you study can make or break how you do on an exam. You need to find what is the best way to study for yourself. Maybe these tips aren’t for you, but it’s what works best for me. I hope you can get at least one thing out of this! Happy studying!