People arrive at college surprised that cracking open a textbook every once in a while isn’t a bad idea or with color-coordinated pencil bags stuffed to bursting with multicolored highlighters.
Both are terrible ideas, since most high schools do a scanty-at-best job teaching students how to study effectively, personally, I think it’s a great idea to know which methods work and which methods only feel like they are working until the test.
1. Notecards are love, notecards are life
These are fantastic for memorization heavy classes or any gen-ed class where you have to remember information associated with visual cues. The benefit for vocabulary is obvious, but since most classes that contain enough vocabulary to justify notecards, they are best for learning the theory of whatever you are trying to remember: write the name of the theory on one side and write out an A-worthy explanation on the back. Not only does this force you to research the ins and outs of all the stuff you think will be on the test, but it lets you pre-plan your answers a little so that you don’t have to expend any energy thinking about how to answer when it comes up on a test.
2. There is no harm in asking what to study
As far as I know, teachers don’t arrange secret meetings where they gather to cackle about all the red herrings they gave to students regarding upcoming tests. Some teachers are vaguer than others about the kind of content that will be showing up on tests, but there isn’t harm in knocking some topics off your to-do list. You sleep that extra hour buddy-you earned it.
3. Either rewrite your notes or read them aloud
If it’s a weed-out class, do both. If not, go ahead and have a specific area to rewrite your notes. The action of re-writing your notes helps you really remember them, and works way better than simply reading them alone.
4. Books and post-it notes are a great combo for papers
Normally, I am of the strong opinion that if you buy more than pen, paper, and a fat stack of notecards, you are spending too much on study supplies. You are trying to pass a class, not become Pinterest famous with your gorgeous notes that have enough highlighter on them to make me mistake it for a fruit by the foot. That said, the one exception to this rule would be post-it notes if you write papers over books a lot. Every time you see a quote you want to use, write it down on the sticky and put it in the book.
5. Confer with fellow sufferers
Let’s hold hands and say it together now: You are not alone. There is a good chance exchanging information with someone else will probably benefit you. Someone else in the class may have had the professor before and knows how they test. I have never known anyone to withhold information about a subject when asked, and if they do, feel free to throw your hummus at them. Hard subjects generally beget study groups. At the very least, you will find someone to complain with.
When it comes to tests, confidence is ignorance, and it’s always better to prepare to war only to find a small skirmish instead of the other way around. The first test usually indicates how much time you need to put into that class compared to others. Go forth, and bring up those grades, or check to see what the last day to change to pass-fail it. Either works.