Until this semester, I have always just wrote myself off as a bad test taker.
If you call yourself that too, it’s time to let that idea go.
Here’s a study plan and a few tips that you won’t want to be without when those finals or big exams roll around:
I typically start to study for an exam a week before the exam date. I will take you through one full week of studying. For the sake of this post, let’s say your exam focuses on 5 chapters.
In my planner, I will write down my study goals for the day, so that at then end of the day I can check them off. Make sure you do this too!
Day 1: Rough Study Day
On day one I start by gathering all of my class notes and doing what I call a rough read of the first two chapters of my textbook. Even if you have already read those chapters before/as you were learning them in class, I find it extremely effective to skim through them while studying as well. It helps you recall information easier. On this day, take the time to read through your class powerpoint, written notes and chapters.
Day 2: Picking up Steam
Day 2 is when I refer to my trusty OneNote application and start rewriting and organizing notes from class, class powerpoint slides, and my textbook. OneNote is a Microsoft Office Application that allows you to take various kinds of notes and organize them to your liking (I probably only get to about 2 chapters this day, but hey that’s okay). I will also continue with a rough read of the remaining chapters in my textbook.
This is from my Marketing Research course. As you can see, I have sections for each of my classes and for each chapter.
Here’s an example of how I outline my notes. I typically do a bold heading for the overall idea of the section. I then do sub-headings and definitions or concepts. I hi-light ones I want to emphasize (or ones that may be more difficult to recall) in a different color.
You can also use different fonts to spice it up a bit!
Day 3- Day 4: OneNote allllllll day
Yeah, I know it seems like a lot…stay with me here.
I really get into using OneNote so I spend a lot of time on it. It really helps me conceptually organize ideas in my mind, I suggest you take advantage of it! At the end of day 4, you should have all of your notes copied into OneNote and organized.
Day 5: Feeling Good
Since I put all that work in for the past 4 days, I take day 5 as a mini-break. I simply read through my outlines. I usually do not make flashcards or a Quizlet when studying marketing concepts, but for classes that are more focused on memorization, I highly suggest it.
Paper flashcards tend to work better for me and give you a break from looking at your screen. Also, physically writing the concepts down help with recall. They’re especially easy to look at quickly before your exam or even on your walk to your exam!
Day 6: Full Swing o’ Things
Ahhhh the big day is tomorrow. This might be the time that people get a little stressed out, but you don’t need to worry. You methodically studied your material and you should be a pro at this point (and I taught you how to get an A!)
Today I usually will continue to read through my outlines as well as will read through chapter concepts. At most ends of chapters in textbooks, there are summaries of every important detail in the chapter, these can be helpful to read too! Pay attention to small details while reading through concepts, I find that a lot of material in the textbook actually shows up on my exams.
This day I also go through and clarify concepts that I might be iffy on. If your professor provides you with a study guide, go through each topic and recite what you know about it. Stop at anything you stumble on. Be sure to not just review the definition, but go back and read about the entire concept in your textbook.
The night of day 6 should not be cramming, it’s the time to make a cup of tea, put on a show and then go to sleep. Let all that information seep in!
Day 7: Test Day
The long awaited day. Dreadful for some, but not for you! On day 7, I wake up a little early, not too early where I’m exhausted, but enough to get some studying done. Similar to the previous day, I review iffy concepts as well as go through my outline once again. I really suggest not pushing yourself today. You pretty much have learned all that you can and now the time is coming to show it.
Test Taking Tips:
- Clear your mind: Before the exam, everyone around you is chattering about material right now. Find your inner-peace and try to mini meditate for the few minutes before you take the test.
- Be Confident: Before an exam I always say something along the lines of this to myself, “You know the material, you studied the material, this is not hard, all it is is showing the professor you understand what you learned. You know what you know”.
- Easy Goes First: When taking an exam, I always go through multiple choice or true/ false questions first, they get me ‘warmed up’ to take the rest of the exam. I will skip and circle a question I’m unsure of and come back to it later.
- Rely On Instinct: Your first answer was probably right. Don’t change a multiple choice answer unless you are 100% sure that what you put down at first was wrong.
- Slow and Steady: It wins the race. Cramming will get you nowhere. Even if you are doing bare minimum hours of studying a day, it helps you retain the information better.
- Break it up: Obviously we don’t have time to sit down and study for 5 hours one day. It’s best to break up your studying time anyway! Study in the morning then at night. That way, it gives you a chance to recall what you learned in the morning and solidify it.
- Get cute hi-lighters for your textbook reading: I use hi-lighters called Zebra Mildliner, I got mine from Target! I like them because they have muted colors.
- Find time to Unwind: I usually get myself into a studying frenzy if I’m worried about an exam, but it’s so important to take a little time to relax. Go outside, workout, take a walk to a coffee shop, do ANYTHING that helps get your mind off of studying for a little bit!
You can do this!