It’s time for finals again. It feels like only a short time ago when I sat down this time last year to post 4 tips for how parents can encourage students to study. To add to that advice, here are 7 study methods that can make a large improvement in a student’s retention of material.
- Break up study time. Although it’s tempting, cramming is not an effective study method. According to the Dartmouth Academic Skills Center, the best way to study is in 50 minute increments and to give yourself a 5 to 10 minute break between each session. For best results, study for one week leading up to the test.
- Switch up your location. Earlier this year, the New York Times explained that rather than sticking to one study spot, you should switch things up when reviewing for exams.
- Get a group together. Study groups can motivate you to get started when it’s hard to motivate yourself. Plus, explaining difficult concepts out loud will help you figure out what you understand and what you still need to go over, and getting a group together will allow you to divide and conquer definition of terms and explanations of concepts.
- Visualize success. If mere mention of the phrase “final exam” increases your anxiety, mastering exam material may not be all you need to worry about. To calm yourself down — and prevent from blanking during the test — spend some time before the exam imagining yourself acing it.
- Set a schedule. By the time finals roll around, your time is precious — every minute counts. To avoid going crazy during this stressful time, make a realistic study schedule for yourself. Leave yourself time for breaks and be sure to prioritize according to which class you’ll need to study for the most. Even though this seems like an easy feat, setting a schedule and sticking to it can be difficult for many students. Our Educational Coaches are experts when it comes to time management and can help.
- Throw technology into the mix. There are a variety of web and app study aids to help students prepare for tests. One of our favorites is StudyBlue, which allows users to upload class study materials and practice tests, and create electronic flashcards to study and share with others. Another top pick for those who have a hard time focusing is SelfControl, which, for Mac users, will block access to certain websites and mail servers for a set amount of time in order to help you stay focused.
- Make it memorable. Just as it’s harder to recall a list of 20 words than a 20-word sentence, it’s harder to recall a list of boring facts than a story. To help retain information, try to connect with whatever it is you’re learning. Whether using memory aids (like mnemonic devices) or making facts personal, bringing test material to life will make it much easier to remember.
Small changes to your study routine can make a huge difference when it comes to test day. Try some of these suggestions out and see what works for you. Also, if you have any study tips that have been helpful for you, please share them in the comments section – we’d love to hear them!