Six Tips for Effective Studying

by Sarah Reinhart '10

Perhaps no word strikes fear into a college student’s heart like this one: exams. Some students are afraid of failure, some don’t set aside enough time for studying, but many put it off until it’s too late simply because they’re not sure how to study effectively (all nighters, anyone?). However, one of the best kept secrets about studying for tests is…preparation! What some students don’t know is that they can take simple steps to help them retain the information they study:

  1. Keep up with weekly reading. During the first week of class, most professors hand out syllabi that contain a copy of the course schedule. Reading each chapter on time will make reviewing for a test much less stressful—the more time you spend with the material throughout the semester, the easier it will be to retain.

  2. Take good notes in class. It helps to write down the information as you take it in because the information enters your brain via two separate processes. This is extremely valuable in retention—the more ways you soak up the information, the more material your brain has to draw on when test time comes.

  3. Make use of highlighters. When you highlight key topics and terms in your textbooks and notes, it is easier to find them later on and forces you to pay attention to that specific concept.

  4. Type your own version of the teacher’s study guide. Sometimes, professors provide a list of key topics that could appear on a test. Try taking that list and typing a little summary or definition for each term. It helps you reprocess information you have already gone over.

  5. Ask questions in class. Usually, the professor can put concepts in context and explain it in a way that makes sense. If you’ve kept up with the material, you’ll be able to pinpoint problem areas early on, allowing you ample time to make sure you understand key concepts.

  6. Form study groups with your classmates. In order to retain what you study, it’s important to discuss the material outside of the classroom. And you never know, perhaps a classmate understands the material that is a struggle for you.

Implementing these ideas into your study habits will help you retain whatever information you study. Although it’s also important to review for a test directly before it occurs, following this advice will help you build a strong foundation with the material instead of starting from scratch the night. So grab your textbook, a highlighter, your computer, and a friend, and study smarter!