Exams are a necessary and stressful part of education. Since they are so important, you need to study in ways that get the best results. Here are some ways to improve your study skills. Adapt them to your needs and environment to make the best of your education.
- Create a timetable. Budget your time wisely to ensure that you cover all the topics covered in the exam. Remember to take regular breaks and get out and exercise.
- Rewrite your notes to aid memory. Rewriting your notes is great if you're a kinesthetic learner. Mind mapping is the most effective way of doing this. Also, when you re-write something, you will probably think about what you are writing, what it's about, and why you wrote it down. Most importantly, it refreshes your memory. If you took notes a month ago and just found out that those notes will be relevant in your exam, rewriting them will remind you of them when you need it for your exam.
- Find the right hours. Don't study when you're really tired. It's better to get a good night's sleep after studying for a short time, than to push on at two in the morning. You won't remember much and you're likely to see a performance drop the next day.
- Don't cram. Cramming the night before is proven to be ineffective, because you're taking in so much information at once that it's impossible to memorize it at all — in fact, you'll hardly retain anything. I know it's been preached to you many times before, but it's true: Studying before and going over it multiple times really is the best way to learn the material. This is especially true with things like history and theoretical subjects.
- Different subjects call for different studying. If it's math you're studying for, work on the problems. Don't just read over it like you would for a history class, because you can actually do math, but you can seldom do history. Working problems out will help burn them into your mind, and remember: if you can't solve the problem before the exam, you won't be able to solve it on the exam either. For subjects based on calculations, it is important to do questions because this is essentially how you are going to be tested.
- If you are studying for a more social subject, re-read your notes, or re-write them! Make sure you know what you're talking about(rather than just memorizing your notes)! Don't simply copy your notes over and over again. This tends to lean towards memorizing the exact wording of your notes instead of the actual concepts. Instead, read and think about the contents of your notes (such as think of examples), and then re-word them.
- Choose good surroundings. How do you study best? In your PJ's and your favorite t-shirt? With music or without? In your room or outside? You probably won't be able to study effectively with distractions like family members and outside noises. Some strategies for managing your surroundings include:
Make sure you are studying in a clean, quiet and orderly room. This may necessitate leaving your house. Public libraries are usually a good option. Be aware that food is likely not allowed and you will be expected to keep the silence.
Studying in a dark room is not recommended. Add lamps at night, or in the daytime, open the window coverings(open the window a little, too). People tend to study and focus better in a brighter, oxygenated room with little noise.
Turn the TV off, more often than not. Some people like to have the TV on quietly in the background. This can cut both ways in that it can distract you from time to time, but also can help you to continue studying. It may be beneficial to begin studying with the TV on in the background, and then turning it off once you're under way. The combination of visual and audio stimuli will likely reduce your studying performance, as it makes it more difficult for your brain to prioritize information acquisition (rapidly swapping attention between studying and watching TV).
Music's effect on memory performance varies between individuals. Some studies have found music to aid the memory performance of individuals with ADD/ADHD, while reducing it in individuals without the disorder. Music can be motivating (making studying more enjoyable) while still detracting from memory performance. You must determine whether you're better off with or without it. If you cannot bring yourself to study without music, it may be worth the minor negative effect it can have on memory.
Take breaks. You need some time to have fun and it is better to revise when you are feeling relaxed than to exhaust yourself studying all day! The only caveat is, you need to avoid procrastination.
- If you have trouble bringing yourself to study, instead of long uninterrupted sessions, chunk your work into 20 minute periods, taking a 10-minute break at the end of every period. You can vary this time to your comfort (i.e 45 minute periods with 20 minute breaks), though try to keep the ratio of more work over break time. Make sure that you structure the chunks logically so that you're not breaking up concepts across chunks, as this may make it more difficult to remember concepts in their entirety.
- Plan ahead. Always create a plan before you start studying. Remember that this plan has to be achievable. If 3 out of 5 lessons are easy and can be finished fast, finish them first, so you can spend quality time on the difficult lessons without fretting. Small tricks like these will help you complete your portions quickly.
- Review your notes. When you are finished studying one page of your notes, before you move on to the next page, ask yourself questions relating to the material on that page to see if you have remembered what you just studied. It also helps to say the answers to your questions out loud as if you were trying to explain it to someone else.
- Ask yourself: What is my teacher most likely to ask on the exam? What materials should I focus on to give myself the best chance of knowing what I need to know? What trick questions or wrinkles could my teacher introduce that might throw me for a loop?