Not a good test taker? There’s a lot of debate on that subject alone, but the chances are good that whether or not you’re good at taking tests, you’ll probably have to take an exam or two (or forty) during your time at college.
So how can you approach your exams in the best way possible? Is studying all night the only answer? Everyone approaches school a bit differently, and while your learning style might differ from your peers, there are some key things you can have in place to set you up for success. We’ve compiled a list of best practices when it comes to making sure your test scores are as good as they can be. Read on!
1. Go to all your classes
This may seem like a no brainer, but attending all your classes will give you the best chance at doing well on your tests—simply because you won’t be consistently missing information. Obviously, you may have to miss one or two classes for something important, but if you’re skipping class just to skip or just because you don’t feel like going, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Studying for the quizzes and tests in your class is only going to be harder if you have no idea what’s going on.
Yes, you certainly can borrow notes from other classmates, but simply reading someone else’s notes may not allow you to understand a specific concept in the same way that the professor conveyed it. It’s also important that while you’re in class, you stay tuned in instead of surfing social media. You are at college to learn, after all, so try and absorb what your professor is saying and actually learn the information.
2. Make a plan for studying
Studying can feel like an overwhelming task—especially if you’re not a fan of the material. When you know that you have an upcoming exam, try splitting things up over a series of days so that you don’t feel crushed by the weight of all you have to do. Flashcards are an excellent way to review terms, dates, and important information, so try making some or utilizing an online app or website that allows you to create digital flashcards for studying on the go.
You also might want to connect with some other students from your class. Sometimes TA’s will hold study groups for a class, but more than likely, you’ll have to create your own. Schedule a few different times to get together and review the material as a group. Not only does this make studying more fun, but it holds you accountable to staying focused and you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions if you get stumped about something.
3. Don’t do at all at once—it’s important to take breaks!
Many students make the mistake of pulling an all-nighter the night before a big exam. Not only will less sleep lower your ability to think straight and remember important information but cramming all that information into once giant study session just a few hours before you are tested on it will hardly help you actually learn the information you’ve been taught. If you’re not learning, you’re probably just memorizing. This works for some people, but it won’t aid you in the future unless you have a photographic memory.
It’s also important that you give yourself breaks while studying and cramming the night before certainly won’t all breaks—or even sleeping! Plan on studying for a set amount of time or through certain sections of material, and the once you hit that threshold, close your books and laptop and take a stroll outside or head down to the cafe and grab dinner with a friend. Taking some breaks gives your mind a chance to absorb the information you’ve been studying and will help you feel refreshed and ready to get back at it when you’re ready to study again. Taking a ten-minute break per hour of studying is a good measurement of time if you need specifics.
You got this! Keep up the good work!