As we head closer and closer to the holiday season many of us are filled with excitement, while others breathe a stressful sigh as they think of midterms, term papers, and semester projects. Trust me I know. During college, the Fall semester was always the most stressful experience. When you get back from Fall Break everything is a whirlwind and the next thing you know that large history research paper is due the same day as your biology final. This study guide is for those of you studying for your SAT, ACT, GRE, finals, working on projects or just trying to learn anything! I would like to put in a disclosure that I am not a teacher or anything of that nature so my methods and suggestions are not the end all for study success but, after graduating with a degree in biochemistry from the honors program at High Point University I think I may know a thing or two...
First things first, learn your learning style. That may sound redundant, but everyone learns differently and thus needs to study differently. I would recommend taking this free test to find out your learning style. I remember when I first went to High Point and a professor made us take a similar test and thought to myself "This is a waste of time." but my Freshmen-self was so wrong. The test narrowed in on the fact that I am a visual learner over an auditory or tactile-kinesthetic learner. By know this I can focus on studying in a more visual style.
After you know your learning style, you can focus on study techniques that will actually stick. As a visual learner, I have to see what I am thinking and studying. The best way I found to do this was to read my class notes, professor's powerpoint and textbook then rewrite the key points, definitions, and formulas down. To not waste paper and allow for multiple repetitions, I used a small whiteboard that I could keep in my backpack with some dry erase markers for whenever I had a chance to study. Flashcards also worked for simple fact-based studies like Art History, where the test was based on the who, what, when and where but not really why. Flashcards are also great for learning new vocabulary and new languages.
If you took the test and found out you are an auditory learner, try recording the professor as they teach. Then use the recordings later to study. Many of my friends that are auditory learners also recite the facts out loud for anyone that will listen or to themselves. Are you a tactile-kinesthetic learner? For you to study and learn you have to do. So if you are in Art History and learning about the Mona Lisa, maybe sketch it out as you study the material. The act of drawing will be connected to the information.
There are so many study tips for the different learning styles but no of them matter if you do not have the right location. Location, location, location! For some, the library is the only place they can focus and successful study. While others I know would spend all night in the library but not learn a thing. I personally love a quiet area away from my bed. I could not and still can not get anything done if I am trying to work at night. I spent many others in the High Point Learning Commons, which is like a small library with many study desks and comfortable spots to set up shop for a long study secession. Before you set on one location test out several options. Some people need a completely quiet area, where others need background noise. You will not know your best location for studying until you find which ones do not work.
Along with location, timing is everything! Everyone is different, some people can pull all-nighters the night before an exam and still do okay. Me, that is not happening. I would rather wake up at 4 am to finish reviewing a paper or go over the test material one more time than stay up all night. You might be more of a night owl and find your focus is best past 8 pm, more power to you. Know your body, don't force your body into sleep patterns it is not built for. If so you are asking for exhaustion and probably a cold.
Not only is the time of day you study important but how well you plan for studying in your day to day schedule. This I struggled with, I would plan a large study session the weekend before the exam and stress when I did not care all the material I should have. So don't be like me, plan for studying like you do homework. Give yourself small chunks of time to go over material from the last lecture or to practice a new formulation. I am not saying plan for an hour a day, but for the 30 minutes between classes where you are just hanging out at Starbucks (cough* me cough*) or that 15 minutes you are waiting for the bus, go through your notes or flashcards. That 15 to 30 minutes turn into hours by the end of the week, and maybe then you won't spend all weekend crammed up in the Learning Commons just watching everyone else having fun...just me?
Youtube can be your best friend. When I was tired of rewriting cycles and formulas I would turn to Youtube to revisit the material. Now check with your teachers and professors first to make sure the information that the Youtube channel is providing is correct but there is a goldmine of information out there! Not just cats doing cute stuff. My biochemistry professor would actually encourage us to rewatch certain videos on the different metabolic cycles to help us grasp the complex information.
Ask for help. Your classmates and professors are your best resources. I would not have survived my time at High Point without mine. Shout out to my biochemistry friends for putting up with me for all those years! We worked as a team to learn the material. Everyone is different and everyone retains information differently or even different information. When we put our heads together at one of our many study sessions we would be able to give each other the puzzle pieces of information that were needed to succeed. And don't forget that your professors want you to succeed. They will not judge you when you come to you with a problem but instead, they will be happy that you are asking for help. I hung out a lot in the professor office area, no shame.
Lastly, be confident! Go into any project, test, or anything in life like you are going to succeed and do it! Doubt will ruin your test scores more than anything else. You are going to do extraordinary!!
Blessings from Birmingham,