Preparing for exams can be a highly stressful time for students. But, you can achieve better performance and earn higher grades by planning your studying. Using effective study techniques can also help boost your results.
Most students are familiar with the essential study techniques. Those students who excel in their exams, however, often use more advanced study techniques. Here are five tips to effectively prepare for an exam and maximize the time you spend studying.
Preparing for a study session is perhaps more important than actually studying because it can set the tone for the entire session. First, make sure you have all the materials required to study. This will include your class notes and textbooks, along with any supplementary study materials you may need.
Incorporated into your preparation should also be a consideration of your study environment. Some students work best in a quiet environment like a library while others can concentrate better in a more crowded area, like a coffee shop. Be sure you understand your best study environment before you start studying. Regardless of where you choose to study, do your best to personalize your environment, making it conducive to a better study session.
2. Make a ranked topic list
Once you have all your materials, focus on structuring your study time in the most effective way possible. The best way to do this is to make a comprehensive list of everything that will be covered on your exam. You can draw this list from your syllabus, textbook, or class notes. Be sure to cross-reference to ensure your list is comprehensive.
Then, go through your list and rank everything based on your comfort level with the material. It can be tempting to spend more time on content you are already familiar with as you will know the answers to practice questions and your study sessions will go faster. Unfortunately, this is a disservice to your studying. Instead, focus the majority of your time on any topics you are unsure of or have scored poorly on in the past. By test day, you want to have improved your understanding of every topic that will be on the exam. You can get the best progress by improving your understanding of topics that were challenging for you.
3. Use the Pomodoro timing method
Once preparations for your study session are complete, and you have selected what topics to focus on, it is time to begin studying. Use any methods that work for you. Common methods include summarizing material, using flashcards or working through practice problems.
To have maximum efficiency during your study session, consider employing the Pomodoro method. This method, first developed in the 1980s, is designed to increase your focus and productivity. The premise is studying in focused bursts of time, traditionally 25 minutes, then giving yourself a 5-minute break. After five cycles, or two and a half hours of studying, you should then schedule in a more extended break. This break can be anywhere up to an hour, or you can stop studying for the day if you have reached your goal.
The Pomodoro method works because people usually cannot focus on one task for a prolonged period. The upper limit of attention is 45 minutes with an average of 25 minutes of committed, focused time. The Pomodoro method also challenges you to work on only one task during a given 25 minute period, meaning you will reach mastery of a topic faster. Knowing that you have a scheduled break will also encourage increased concentration and prevent your mind from wandering.
4. Test yourself with the Feynman technique
Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist made famous partially by his physics lecture series. He was renowned for his ability to explain challenging concepts easily. His main technique was working up from basic principles that were easy to understand.
The best way to test your complete knowledge in a topic is to try to teach it. Specifically using the Feynman method is the best way to do this. Even if you do not have a study partner, you can use this method by writing everything out on a sheet of paper.
First, start by writing the overarching topic on the top of the page. Then, try to explain the concept by breaking it down into first principles then building it back up. If there is any point where you cannot break a concept down into its essential facts, or if you are having trouble building those concepts back up to the main idea, go back to your notes or textbook to address those gaps in your knowledge. Read over your “lesson” and try to notice if there is anywhere where you can break a concept down into more straightforward ideas. It is only when you can teach the topic to someone with absolutely no background knowledge that you have complete mastery of a topic.
To build a Feynman inspired lesson, try to include diagrams and figures to visualize concepts. It is also helpful to underline key terms and ideas. As an added challenge, you can also try to limit yourself to one page if it is a small or straightforward topic.
5. Start early to maximize spaced repetition
Now that you know what to study, how long to study on a given day, and how to review concepts you have learned, the final step for building a strong study plan is to design a schedule. Ideally, start studying a few weeks before a final or standardized exam and at least one week before a test. This will give you the opportunity to capitalize on a concept called spaced repetition.
Spaced repetition uses the psychological concept of the spacing effect. Our brains are better at remembering things if they are exposed to a concept again when it was about to be forgotten. If you have not given yourself time to forget a concept, studying it again will not have as great of an impact as it could otherwise.
It is best to lengthen the “forgetting” period each time you study a topic. For example, you could study a topic two days in a row, then after three days, then after five days.
Writing out a study schedule and assigning specific topics to study each day will help you use this method. You can also use apps like Anki or Quizlet’s Long-Term Learning mode to use this method with flashcards.
Keep these tips and techniques in mind when studying for your next big test or final exam. And remember, every method is customizable to match your study habits and mirror how you learn best. Be sure to take the time to understand how you study best to get the best results.
Knowing when to ask for help is also a vital part of building a strong study plan. Stutorialz provides excellent tutoring services to help you master topics and ace exams. Personal tuition and online resources will help solidify knowledge and show you exactly what you need to review before test day.
Learn more about Stutorialz services here. Get exam ready