Get The Most Out Of Your Study Habits With These Tips

young woman wearing headphones with a book in hand studying, blue filter.

Few things are more stressful than studying for a big, important test. There is so much information to review for an exam, and unfortunately, study skills aren’t something they actually teach in many schools. For a lot of us, studying is an exhausting process of trial and error, and it can be all too tempting to just skip it entirely and try to cram the night before a big exam.

Luckily, you have us in your corner. We’ve already talked through how to get organized and create a study plan for final exams that won’t have you pulling out your hair. Now, it’s time to focus on the best methods for studying and how to feel like you’ve actually learned something from all that time you’ve spent hitting the books. Whether you’re a college student prepping for those end of semester exams in a college course or a parent helping your high schooler get ready for the next big math test, here are some helpful tips you might not know to help you study like a pro.

How long should I study for finals?

When it comes to studying, more is not necessarily better. You may be tempted to spend hours hitting the books and trying to cram every last bit of information into your brain before the test. Ultimately, this may only leave you feeling mentally exhausted, lethargic, and bored

⚡️ Quick tip

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recommends studying in one-hour blocks, with 50 minutes spent on reviewing your study materials and 10 minutes spent taking a break.

Yes, you read that correctly: take a 10-minute break for every 50 minutes you spend studying. You may need to devote several one-hour blocks to one subject in order to be fully ready for your test. Even then, you should schedule those blocks out over a series of days leading up to your test, and don’t skip your breaks. This should ensure you cover everything without getting overwhelmed.

This suggested routine is based on the Pomodoro Technique, pioneered in the 1980s, which used the term pomodoro (Italian for “tomato”) to refer to the interval of time spent working.

How to review test material

There are many ways to memorize information, and the method that works best for you will probably depend on your individual learning style. To make sure you’re getting the most out of your study sessions, try reviewing the same information in multiple ways. It will keep things fresh, and you’ll challenge yourself to really master the subject. Here are some easy review methods:

Make flashcards. You can do this the old-fashioned way by using index cards and a pen. You can also create a free account and start making digital word lists to help you review important vocabulary words.

Copy your notes. If you’re a verbal learner, meaning you learn best from writing and speaking, rewriting your notes from class may help you absorb the information better. You might even try using highlighters or different color pens to color code the important facts you need to know.

Read your textbook out loud. Reading out loud can help your focus more on the individual words and better retain important details. After you read each section, try writing a quick summary of what you just read.

✅ Use memory tricks. Acronyms, abbreviations, and even songs can be clever ways to train your brain to recall information. If you’re having trouble remembering a specific formula, title, or step to a problem, come up with a quick rhyme, saying, or tune you can refer back to again and again.

✅ Test yourself. How much of this are you actually remembering? What are you still struggling to retain? The only way to know for sure is to regularly quiz yourself as you’re studying. Keep reading for tips on how to do that.

Worries about a final paper? No need to stress with our guide on how to prepare to write that essay!

How to assess your skills before an exam

During your study sessions, quiz yourself regularly to see how much progress you’ve made. This will help you figure out if you need to devote extra time to something, or if you’re ready to move on. It can also help you hone in on the areas where you’re really struggling to commit the information to memory. To self-test, try these:

  • Answer textbook questions at the end of each chapter.
  • Take an online quiz.
  • Ask the teacher or professor for a practice test.
  • Review flashcards and mark the ones you miss.
  • Time yourself answering questions or writing prompts.
  • Ask a parent, classmate, or friend to quiz you.

Do you need help studying?

One easy way to take your study sessions to the next level? Try studying with a partner. Together, you can divide time consuming study tasks, like making flashcards and highlighting passages. They might bring skills and insights to the study session that differ from yours, so you both gain a better understanding of the material. Lastly, a study partner is a built in companion for going over review questions and quizzing each other on the facts.

Are you healthy and rested?

Don’t forget that how you perform on test day also has a lot to do with your mood and well-being. If you haven’t been sleeping, eating well, getting physical activity or taking adequate breaks, you may find it’s difficult to focus on test day. To make sure you’re in peak test-taking shape:

  • Don’t skip meals and snacks while studying.
  • Schedule breaks into your study sessions. Remember, over-studying can be hard on your body, and it won’t necessarily help you learn more.
  • Stick to your regular exercise routine in the days leading up to the test to stay active and help relieve stress.
  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before the test.
  • On the day of the exam, give yourself enough time to get ready, eat a balanced pre-test meal, and take a deep breath. You might even follow along with a quick calming exercise on a meditation app, do some relaxing stretches, or write down some intentions for the day.

If you’ve done the hard work to prepare, you’re ready for what’s ahead, and the test itself should be no match for you!

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The end of the year project can sneak up on you. Be prepared for it with these tips.

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