We’re going to give you one more thing – a study strategy that works. One that will spread the required learning over the semester; leaving you calm, cool, and relatively rested for finals week in the Spring. If you follow this strategy, we guarantee your grades will be higher, you will experience less FFFW (i.e., Fatigue Fraught Finals Week), and you’ll have more time to play.
- Do assigned reading before you attend class. Buy the books early and show up to class ready to be exposed to the material for a second time. This leaves you at an advantage. Learning theories all show that repeated exposure to materials will allow you to learn more. Reading before class allows you to think about what you have read, ask questions, and absorb more material than your fellow students. At the end of class you’ve engaged a multitude of learning strategies: reading, listening to the lecture, writing or typing your lecture notes, and engaging in discussion.
- Keep all of your notes in the same place. Keeping all your notes on your laptop can really help. Make a brief outline of your reading as you read and add the page numbers. Note any questions that arise so you can ask them in class. As your professor lectures, add your lecture notes to the reading outline in a different color. At the end of class, you have all of your study notes in one place – which will make life easier when it comes time to study for your mid-term and final.
- Create a to-do list during class. It’s easy to remember you need to make some flash cards or re-read a section of a book while you’re sitting in class. The minute you leave, though, you’ll forget something. Create a running to-do list for your study time. When you sit down to study, your list will direct your activities and you won’t waste time trying to remember what needs to be done.
- Study in the library every night. Set aside time for studying every night – including nights when you don’t have anything due next for the next class. The library is a great place to study because your dorm room is filled with distractions, fun times, your bed, and food. Protect this time and protect the place. Don’t allow your study area to become social or you won’t study.
- Study! Let your to-do list guide your studying. To study, you: a) review all past notes from the class; b) read in advance of the next lecture; c) complete items on your to-do list; d) make/review flashcards (www.quizlet.com is great for creating flashcards); and e) made note of any questions you encounter during your study session. As the semester progresses, you’ll also be researching and writing course papers that are due. By studying every night after class and reviewing all of your notes each time you study for a particular class, you won’t find yourself up cramming for exams all night or trying to hook up with someone who sells Adderall because you have to write an 8 page paper that’s due the next day. Repeat: Adderall is bad; sleep is good.
- Schedule pre-test study time a few days before the test. By all means, get a study group together but don’t invite the scrubs! The purpose of your study group is to discuss the material and ensure it’s firmly anchored in your brain. Inviting friends who haven’t studied will slow you down, don’t do it! The study group should meet a day or two before the test so you have time to ask the professor any questions that come up
- Review your notes the day before the test. You won’t need to cram for the exam because you already really know the material. If you used quizlet.com, you can simply review using your quizzes to ensure you know the material. Life is so much more simple when you don’t have to cram!
- Sleep the night before your exams. This is the secret that will compound your success. Every study ever conducted indicates your grades will be higher if you actually got adequate sleep the night before your test. In fact the most recent research indicates your glymphatic system literally cleans the amyloid-beta from your brain during the sleep process. You have to sleep to let your brain clear out the information you don't need so you can think clearly for the test. In the researchers' words, "You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain guests or clean up the house, but you can't really do both at the same time."