Preparing for multiple exams can be overwhelming, and might cause students to wait until the last few days to study or even pull an all-nighter right before an exam.
These study habits will leave you feeling stressed-out and exhausted – not the way you want to go into a tough exam. If you want to improve your performance on your next exam, you need to be proactive about developing a healthy study routine.
Here’s are five changes you can make to improve your memory and understanding of course material:
1. Write your notes by hand
Bringing your laptop to class has a lot of benefits – such as easy collaboration and quick fact-checking – but when it comes to note-taking, you’re better off writing by hand. When you write down your notes it forces you to slow down and listen to what is being discussed in class. You don’t have enough time to write down everything word for word, so you have to summarize the material and focus on what is most important. When you do this, your brain has a chance to actively absorb information, rather than just transcribing it. This step will make it easier for you to recall information when you go to study.
You should consider writing your study guide by hand as well. You’ll have a better chance of retaining the material because your brain is actively processing and analyzing information as you create your guide. For more study guide tips, check out this blog post.
2. Space out your study time
If your typical study routine is one long, marathon cram session, it’s time to reevaluate your approach.
When you cram for an exam, you don’t have enough time to develop a deeper, holistic understanding of the course material. You need to do more than just memorize words and phrases – you have to explain course concepts and how they relate to one another.
It’s a good idea to start studying at least a week before your exam. Plan ahead so that you can break up your study time into smaller, more manageable sessions. This not only makes it easier for you to fit study time into your schedule, but it also allows you more time to thoroughly review class concepts.
3. Break up the material
Studying for a large exam can seem daunting at first, especially when there’s a lot of material to cover. If you’re spacing out your study time into several smaller sessions, dedicate each session to a particular chapter, unit or section of the material. This is a great way to stay focused and keep track of what you still need to review.
Breaking up the material into these smaller chunks can also help you make important connections between different concepts and chapters. Having a strong, cohesive understanding of the course material can prevent you from feeling anxious during the exam, and you’ll be less likely to “blank out” on tough questions.
4. Practice out loud
Studies show that the dual action of speaking and hearing oneself has a beneficial impact on long-term memory. Reciting or explaining concepts out loud can help you remember important information for an exam. This is because you’re adding your sense of hearing to your learning experience, which helps to reinforce your memory. You can even take it a step further and record yourself as you study, so you have an audio version of your notes to listen to later.
5. Teach someone else
Trying to explain course concepts to someone else is a good way to quickly identify any gaps in your knowledge. You can do this with a friend, roommate, family member or a fellow classmate. Working with a classmate is the most effective, since you’ll be collaborating with someone who is also preparing for the same exam and you can take turns teaching each other the material. This way, you be familiarizing yourself with the material both when you’re teaching and when you’re being taught.
These healthy study habits can help you improve your memory of course concepts and your test performance. Additionally, you’ll find that a more manageable study schedule will help you make the most of your free time, so you can feel relaxed, well-rested and confident on exam day. Good luck!