Ace your exams: The BEST College Study Tips

how to study

I am pretty much the studying queen. I am going to be a senior in college this August, and throughout the years I have developed a fail-proof study routine that I always use when studying for exams, no matter what. It has worked out really well for me over the years, and I figured some of you might be interested to know what I do to maintain a pretty good GPA, so that’s what I’m going to share today!

First, let me say that this is not the only way to get good grades. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and this is mine. I do tend to get a little bit obsessive about studying, but that stems from the anxiety I feel about school. Maybe I’ll write about that in another post, lol. But anyway, I worry way more than most people about the amount of hours I study for a test. Basically, the way my mind works, any minute I’m not studying is wasted time. This is a little much, and you don’t need to worry as much as I do. But, this worrying has helped me become a great studier, so maybe it’s not all bad? That’s what I’m going to tell myself anyway.

First, I always make sure to start studying one week advance. This may seem like a long time to some people, but this is actually a shorter amount of time than I used to do. I remember freshman year I would start studying two weeks before the exam date. In heinsight, this wasn’t needed. One week is plenty of time to prepare (unless it’s a huge final or something. This post is mainly covering regular exams).

Because I study for a full week before the exam, I have enough time to study in shorter intervals. This system allows me to study an hour or so every day, and only cover a bit of material at a time. This really helps with retaining information. It might be tempting to cram the night before, but a lot of information is lost that way. I study a bit every day, and the next day I will study new information as well as go back and refresh my mind on what I studied previously. This really helps to ingrain the information into my brain at a moderate pace.

As you might be able to tell by now, I don’t handle stress well. Lol. Because of this, I like to give myself enough time to learn everything, and know that I know it. You can’t do this if you don’t start studying until the night before. I like to do this so that if I find myself struggling with a concept during the studying process, I know I have time to either revisit the issue later or meet with a TA to go over it.

When studying, decide what you need to get done, not just how long you’re going to study. In the past, when I have told myself, “OK, today I am going to study for two hours.” What ends up happening is that one of those hours I spend on Youtube or Facebook, and the other hour I spend half paying attention to what I need to be learning. Even though I was “studying” for two hours, I didn’t really get anything done. Instead, I like to decide what tasks I want to accomplish. For example, I will write in my agenda that on Tuesday I will go over chapters one and two. This way, I’ll be more motivated to actually get stuff done. There isn’t necessarily a time attached to the assignment, and I know that if I really work hard and concentrate I can probably finish fairly quickly.

how to study

My study process

OK, now I am going to go over the actual process of how I study. This may vary a bit depending on the class, but overall I am very consistent. This might not work for everyone, but it works for me, so it has to be at least a little bit helpful, right?

First, I type up all my notes. During class, I take notes in a notebook. When it comes time to study, I get all those notes and type them up. If the professor puts slides or documents online, I will type those up as well, going in chronological order. Basically, I type up any and everything I have learned in that class so far. I don’t really focus on memorizing at this point, but you would be surprised how much information you soak up just by writing it out. This might seem tedious, but I promise it really does help to be physically doing something. If you’re just reading over your notes over and over, you won’t retain it as well as you would if you were physically writing/typing them out a second time.

how to study

After everything is typed up, I will go over the notes by section. Usually I choose to go over 1-3 classes worth of notes each time, depending on how much information they have. Basically, I just read over the notes again and again, making sure I understand everything and going over it in my head as well.

Next, I have someone quiz me. By this point I should have most of it memorized, but I like to be super sure. If you notice there are certain concepts you are struggling to memorize or understand, set up an appointment with either the professor or a TA. If you have friends in the class, reach out to them and ask for clarification.

The night before the exam, I put in extra effort to get a really good night’s sleep. Sleep is so important, and it really makes a difference when it comes to test taking. You can read my post on how to fall asleep quickly and how to stay asleep here.

how to study

I don’t really bother with flashcards or anything like that. However, I do recommend using them for language-based classes, since there are so many vocab words involved. Quizlet saved my life when I was taking Spanish, but other than that I don’t really use them.

One more thing is that if the exam is made up of essay questions, make sure to practice writing out your answers. Sometimes even though you know the information in your head, writing it out in a way that makes sense can be difficult. This will help you to organize your thoughts and know what you want to say on the actual exam.

Those are my tips! I hope this helps, go get that 4.0!