Warning: This study guide is a bit snazzier than the traditional, and very boring tried and true methods of studying for finals (like review your notes and make an outline). So if you’re into taking a walk on the wild side, this guide may be for you!
So we’ve all been there – cramming for final exams until the wee hours of the morning, heavy strained eyes locked on the study guide which helpfully lists all of the concepts and terms you don’t know, wondering, “how the hell do I study all this?” You tried to obey all the study and test-taking tips that every adult on the planet has preached to convince you that you are the key to success to no avail: “get a full eight hours of sleep the night before”, “eat a balanced breakfast the morning of” or the most aggravating one of all, “don’t procrastinate! Study a little bit each night!” My own mother bombards me every time these murderers of tests swing around with, “prior planning prevents piss poor performance.” I think it’s time for a new set of study tips.
- First things first: set your priorities straight. It’s really easy studying for a class you enjoy or one in which you do really well, but studying will only make a difference if you review things you don’t know well, not what you know you can easily ace. Stop beating around the bush and get to business!
- Use Quizlet. This free online study tool is a lifesaver. Just type in all the terms and their definitions (rewriting things is a great study tactic) and allow this website to turn your ordinary list of things to know into printable flash cards, lists, practice tests and slightly entertaining study games. While procrastinating, avoid Facebook and instead, play one of these games to ease you into otherwise treacherous material. http://quizlet.com/
- Put a ring on it. While studying with flashcards can be pretty boring, punching holes through them and attaching a metal binder ring (or a paperclip bent into a circle), creates a certain novelty that aides studying. You won’t worry about losing cards while studying on the go and when you know a term well enough, it’s really easy to remove the card and put it to the side.
- Talk it out. It may sound dumb, but talking about the stuff you’re studying to a friend or family member can really help to cement facts and events to memory. Even explaining the life cycle of a star to your dog will help to reinforce the material (when you take the test just recall that ridiculous time you talked to your dog about that particular subject) and hopefully the answer will come back to you during the test.) When they have a free minute, give your parent the flashcards you made and have them quiz you, explaining the material to them as you go.
- Do a song and dance. As cheesy as it sounds, every time I make a short, catchy song for myself while studying, I remember the material much easier. Make sure it’s not too long or complicated. Repeat it to yourself over and over again. Sing it in the shower. By the time the big day comes, you will know the facts well enough that you can sing them in your head as you write down the correct answer! (ex. twinkle, twinkle little star, circumference equals two pi r).
- Do it Now. Redo your “do nows”. If your teacher gives you these annoying little questions or problems in the beginning of class and makes you write them down in your notebook, it’s your lucky day! Do nows are typically questions about the topic your class focused on that day, but they don’t go into too much detail. If you can go through your past do nows and answer them, you will skim over chapters of material and pick out the topics that your teacher felt were important. (If you need inspiration, go find Mr. Bugg in the science wing and ask him to sing the do now song!)
- There’s no clever heading for this one – ask your teacher to hold a review session for interested students after school or during a lunch period. They can go over the study guide or re-explain the tough stuff. Just make sure to go prepared with questions and say thank you!
- Lighten the load. As school winds down and finals get sooner, classes become more review-oriented. Que – time to make a study binder/packet. Take all of your notes, tests/quizzes, worksheets, etc. and make two piles: stuff you need to study and stuff you don’t. When you have all of the things you need, put them in a binder or packet and then divide them by chapter. Go through your textbook and write down a couple of questions they ask about each chapter, and stick those questions in your notes. Once you’re done, you can read through your notes by chapter like a book and answer the questions at the end of each section. End result: a better prepared you and a lighter backpack.
- Rehearse. Look through your old tests and quizzes and write down important questions that you got wrong. Take this self-made test and treat it like a real one; take it in silence and only use what you know you can on the final. No cheating!
- Get a lay of the land. Ask your teacher how many questions are going to be on the test, what kinds (open-ended, essay, short answer, multiple choice) and what he/she thinks you should focus on in your studying.
- Class does not = nap time. Seriously, I know you’re tired from all this studying, but in the last days before the big day, many teachers review for the test. This is your chance to ask questions. Pay attention and listen to others’ questions; they may remind you of things you still need to go over. If it helps, drink some water or suck on a mint to wake you up.
- Remember the payoff! If you’re serious about getting into one of those highly competitive colleges or finishing the year with a strong grade, this is your final chance this year to boost your GPA!
Have any of your own study tips to share? Post them below in the comments section!