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Written by Brittany October 11, 2018
Talk to anyone who knows me, and you’ll find out I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I’m in bed by 9:30 every night, I don’t settle for less than a 100% on anything, I like to keep things clean, and I show up at least 30 minutes early to everything.
You can see my perfectionism in my approach to academics, too.
I’ve developed what I think is the most thorough, extra, complete system of studying for exams and finals, and I thought I’d pass it along here. It’s a lot — there’s a big time commitment, and it’s definitely not low-effort. But it works for me, and it might work for you too. Here are my five steps to success:
1. Re-read ALL lecture notes. This, of course, starts by taking notes. By hand. It’s the only way. Take handwritten notes every day. Don’t get lazy and type them up on your laptop; it doesn’t commit the information well to memory (there’s plenty of scientific evidence for that), and you’re gonna get bored and scroll fast through your notes during review (there’s plenty of personal experience to back that up). Re-read every page of your lecture notes. Highlight important concepts and definitions so your eye will be drawn to them next time. Sometimes, I even voice-record myself reading my notes so I can listen to them when I don’t have time to sit down and study: getting food, walking to class, exercising, etc.
2. Re-read lecture slides and textbook chapters, and write down important things you didn’t remember or take notes on. If you have one of those awesome professors that posts their slides on Carmen to review, use them! Take notes on them and the textbook chapters; I call this second set of notes my “exam notes”, and I typically keep them separate from the notes in my class notebook. This is just an extra measure to ensure thoroughness.
3. Create flashcards BY for definitions and concepts. Once again, I recommend you don’t use Quizlet or your laptop. You need to write these out. It’ll help you. I promise.
And if you can’t tell by now, I love color. I think it’s important to keep yourself engaged when studying. I use neon flashcards to study, because they’re a lot more fun to look at and it’s easier to bring myself to use them when they’re pretty.
4. Create lists or charts that will help you visualize or simplify things. I love lists (obviously), and I think they’re a great study tool, too. Write out lists and charts and diagrams for the important information that will be easier to understand when visualized.
For my psych class, I made lists of theories and psychologists, color-coded by chapter, and charts for developmental changes and biological concepts.
5. Use your tools and study every night for at least one week. Primarily use the tools you made (flashcards, lists, charts and exam notes), but every once and a while, go over the lecture materials and textbook to cover all the bases.
This is really extra. I know. This is just what I do to ensure that I’ve done absolutely all I can to make my time (and my tuition) worthwhile.
A few bonus tips to get you on the right track:
NO STUDY GROUPS. There are exceptions to these rules, but study groups are normally pretty low on productivity and high on complaining and goofing off. Group studying is rarely an efficient use of your time.
Keep the phone out of sight. I usually set my phone behind me so I can still feel if it vibrates when someone calls, but so it’s not in my line of sight. Just the presence of your phone is a temptation for distraction. Put it away and you don’t have to worry about “accidentally” ending up on twitter.
Good luck on the upcoming midterm/exam season, and happy studying!
Academics, Classes, midterms
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