With finals week just around the corner, as well as my chemistry final exam (help), instead of studying, I figured I would give some advice on how to study for a hard exam. Before I start, I would just like to give a quick shoutout to AP Latin, whose difficulty truly taught me how to prepare for a hard exam, since every test I took for that class has been harder than any exam I’ve taken in college. Let’s just say it’s a blessing I’m done with Latin forever (and got 8 college credits from the AP)!!
Pay attention in class when your professor is going over the requirements or what is expected to know for the exam. Email your professor and/or your TA to ask what they suggest you study from (i.e. lecture slides, text book, practice problems). You can save yourself a lot of time by not wasting it on material that won’t be covered on the exam.
This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just jot down what you are going to study on what days. Spread it out and make sure you are giving yourself enough time to cover all of the material. Start as soon as possible! Now, I’m not someone who can say I study ahead all the time, but I know cramming leads to less retention!
Separate the information using different colors. Make use of charts and diagrams. Make a study guide that is so cute that it will make you WANT to study the information. Here’s a Pinterest board with some inspiration.
Teaching the information to someone else is proven to improve memory of the subject. Speaking the information out loud better solidifies it in your memory.
Once you get into a routine in a certain spot and study there repeatedly, its easier to get distracted. Scope out a new, clean study spot whether that is a busy coffee shop or a quiet room in the library. Change your surroundings!
This means drinking plenty of water, taking time to eat, walk around periodically, and getting plenty of sleep. Pulling an all-nighter the night before the exam has proven to do more harm than good. I’m not telling you to get 8 hours of sleep (because that’s just unrealistic), but as a college student, I would say get at least 5.
I learned in Psych 202 this year that the best way to study and remember material is to test yourself. Use practice problems from your textbook, re-do questions from the past exams, or re-do practice problems that your professor has given you.
This is easier said than done, but a 5 minute break can quickly turn into an hour if your phone is involved.
What other advice do you have for students preparing for a hard exam? Let me know in the comments!