Studying for exams in college or university can be a daunting task, especially when you have so many other things going on. But the more efficiently you study, the more likely it is that you’ll pass with flying colors and actually remember what you learned.
10 Effective Ways to Study for Exams in Less time
Studying for exams is a tough process. With how much information you need to remember, studying can be an absolute nightmare if you don’t know how to go about it. This post will provide 9 tips on how to study for your exams in less time.
1. First, Understand how to Take Good Notes
The first step in taking good notes is to understand what good notes look like. This will help you know what’s expected of you and how you can create good notes for yourself.
Good notes are organized, easy to understand, and have clear headings and subheadings. They’re laid out in a way that makes it easy to find information. And since you’re not confronted with new information every time you look at your notes, you’ll be able to recall the information more easily.
Recently, researchers began to look at how studying affects memory function. They discovered that the process of studying directly affects how fast you can form new memories.
In other words, bad study habits can negatively affect how well you remember things. Just like bad diet habits can affect your health, bad study habits can condition your mind into forming false memories that do you no favors.
For example, student A went to class every day, and he just couldn’t get through it. Then, he had lunchtime where he simply couldn’t focus on the lecture. During the break, he also spent most of his time texting before he even ate. To make matters worse, he also had a few too many cups of coffee before his exam.
On day 1, his memory was dull and he’d struggle to study for the exam. However, on day 3, he was ready to study and he finished the exam with ease.
As a result, he’s able to get great grades each class without any trouble. This shows that instead of resisting studying, he simply ignored it and focused on the important parts.
He’s also gained the confidence he needs to go out and take those tests on the liveliness of his memory instead of relying on the entire class’s memory.
2. Learn how to Use your Notes to Study more Efficiently
One thing I learned in school is that it’s better to study with written notes than to study from a textbook. This is because notes are more specific than the textbook. A textbook simply shares a lot of information, and it’s easy to get bored if you’re studying from it.
Furthermore, you’re able to focus better when you made connections and formed conclusions. Having a clear structure and a structure that is well-connected allows for you to build stronger knowledge throughout the day.
The most effective way to study for an exam is, of course, to study.
However, there are other ways that you can study and still have a successful day studying.
After you’ve finished your homework for the day, it’s important to go through your notes and look for key points. You don’t need to look through every single thing you wrote.
Start with three key points, and then go from there. Sometimes, one key point can be expanded upon.
Study notes are a tedious process if they’re empty. It’s crucial that you make room for the relevant notes you’ll need. Also, other students might be studying in the same room as you are. If they have something they want to add, make space for it in your notes so they don’t forget it.
When my class was reviewing for their exams, I got things into my head that I tried to forget. I would subconsciously pull my notes out every so often just to refresh my memory on those topics.
Rather than putting all your notes into a folder, make an Excel sheet with essential facts. This is perfect because you can put all your notes in columns and highlight the crucial words with a red box.
Don’t put everything in one column though. Even if you find an interesting fact, summarizing it in a single column makes your design harder to read and understand.
3. Practice Exams to Sharpen your Skills
If you want to learn a skill, whether it’s a new language, how to play a musical instrument, or how to cook, practice is a must. And if you want to get good at taking practice exams, then you need to practice taking practice exams.
It’s not uncommon for college students to put a small dent in their studying time by cramming for high school exams in order to score a few extra points. The only problem is that this approach only benefits them at the cost, of course, of further diminishing their already meager studying time.
More studies have also linked studying to a naturally high mood of resilience, so taking practice exams is a great way to ensure that you maintain that underlying positive attitude on exam day.
4. Write out your Own Study Guide and Keep it with you at all Times
If you want to get good grades, you need to be prepared. The best way to do this is to write out your own study guide and keep it with you at all times. You’ll be able to use it as a checklist to make sure you’ve done everything you need to do before the exam.
A daily study routine is essential to success. There’s a lot of misinformation out there recommending different shortcuts. However, the one thing you’ll never find on these “shortcuts” is time. Each shortcut you’ll find on these “shortcuts” is only 5–10 minutes long.
The other problem with shortcuts is that their definition varies from person to person. Some teachers might advise you to nap the night before your exam, but if you’ve never done that, it’s not going to help you at all.
If you’ve planned ahead with your study routine, you’ll be ok breaking up your study into multiple sometimes-lengthy sessions.
5. Use Flashcards to Memorize Key Concepts and Terms
One of the best ways to learn something quickly is to use flashcards. This is a great tool to test how much you’ve learnt, and it’s also a great way to review the information for the exam. You can make flashcards with a computer, or you can simply write the information on a stack of index cards.
In recent years, many app developers have also created flashcards that delve more deeply into a particular topic.
For example, Syzygy includes a practice mode, along with a list of flashcard templates you can choose from. Another popular choice is Memrise, which has high-quality, useful flashcards. Another form of the flashcard, the spaced-repetition method, assigns each concept a letter grade based on its recall.
One of the issues most students run into when studying for exams is premature exhaustion. Not knowing where to start, how much to study, or how much time to dedicate to learning presents a huge barrier. By eliminating these questions, you’ll have a much quicker time studying for your exams. However, to give you some ideas of where to start, below I have given a free flashcard app below.
Anki is one of my favorite ways to learn new vocabulary, due to its spaced repetition technology. Even if you’ve never been taught spaced repetition before, you can start using Anki in your browser. You can quickly review words you’ve already learned, or learn new words that are commonly misused. Since the app is free, there’s no excuse to start studying for your exams now.
6. Keep Track of the Information you’re Learning in a Notebook or Spreadsheet
The best way to retain information is to record it. By recording the information you’re learning as you go, it will be easier to remember it later. Record the information in a notebook or spreadsheet and make sure to review it periodically.
You can save a lot of time if you only have to study for an hour or two each day. One of my favorite methods of improving my study efficiency is to set a timer for 20 minutes and refrain from looking at my computer during that time.
Also Read: 6 Effective Tips on How to Do Self Study
When the timer goes off (or if you really want to scratch that metaphorical topical note), study immediately following. Doing so not only ensures that the information you just learned will stick with you, but also allows you to hone your concentration and focus solely on studying for one specific section for an entire exam.
Since most exams are test-oriented, they should appear after your last study session. This allows you to focus solely on the given passage and not get distracted by extraneous information you have and may have forgotten or skimmed over.
In general, a good way to lead with your target passage and narrow your focus on an area specifically is to write it in a numbered list. I like to shorten my original question into three main parts:
(1) the goal of the question.
(2) the information needed to answer the question.
(3) a simple summary of the information.
You can easily write your target passage in this manner.
Once you understand the goal of the question, locate this information in your notes and retain it. The rest of the information can easily be extracted from your notes. As a side note, make sure you actually keep it together so that it flows well and makes logical sense.
It is important to note that if you are studying for a paper, you do not need to read your target passage before beginning your test.
7. Try to Learn the Material in Group
When you’re studying, try to learn the material in a group setting. Research suggests that people get a better grasp of the material when they’re studying in a group, rather than studying individually.
The reason is simple: if you’re studying on your own, you’re more likely to get distracted by the internet or your phone. My best tips suggest that you implement them the same way you would in class. By sitting with the class, you’re more likely to remember the material and come up with new study questions.
Research also suggests that studying with others is a crucial part of the material because it helps the brain develop new neural connections and boosts your learning abilities.
Make time for breaks in your study sessions. Studies show that breaks help study performance and also delay the onset of brain-related problems, such as boredom.
If the last exam was particularly difficult, you may need more breaks than usual. If you feel it’s impossible to study for more than 30 minutes straight, try going for a short walk instead.
Let your brain recharge and restore energy. One of the best brain exercises is visualization.
It seems counterintuitive to spend hours at your computer and still be distracted by your smartphone. However, taking breaks also forces you to focus on the task at hand.
If you’re constantly having to multitask, your brain will never get used to refocusing. Additionally, forcing yourself to take breaks prevents you from clicking mute after your phone has been in your pocket for several hours.
Going on a walk, meeting up with friends, or just checking your messages will help you establish a break or two.
When it comes to consuming caffeine, there is some controversy around whether or not it contributes to performance.
This research, therefore, needs to be taken with a grain of salt. However, if you value your motivation, health, and well-being, avoid caffeine in the afternoons and try to avoid coffee in the morning as well.
If you’re in the middle of a withdrawal, don’t forget to implement some leeway into your schedule.
8. Break up Heavy or Dense Subjects into Smaller
People’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, so you have to make things easier to read and easier to digest. One way to do this is to break up your content into smaller sections, otherwise known as “chunking it up”.
This is a great way to make long articles easier to read. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology found kids could absorb 200 fewer words if they studied each section in isolation rather than being chunked together.
Also Read: 10 Ways to Become a Better Communicator
Another study, published in Educational Researcher, found doing this helped college seniors retain 394 more words and retain them better than students who were told to learn the material piecemeal.
Essentially, it allows you to ensure your content is digestible and useful to the reader, thus they retain as much as possible.
If you have a subject that is long and dense, then it is probably better to break it up into smaller chunks. You can also break up a long or dense piece of writing by using subheadings and bolding or italicizing key points.
There’s no doubt that some subjects are more complex than others. People can get easily overwhelmed by too much information, while a single idea broken down into several pieces can make it easier for them to digest.
If you’re brainstorming content ideas that will resonate with your audience, consider breaking up heavy or dense subjects into smaller pieces.
9. Get a Good Night’s Sleep to Stay Focused
If you’re feeling drowsy or tired during the day, it’s important to take a break and get some rest. This is when naps can be useful, or you can just close your eyes and relax for a few minutes. The sooner you start taking breaks, the sooner you’ll get sound sleep when you’re already tired.
Ideally, you want to sleep for 10 to 14 hours, but it’s really up to you to create a scheme that works for you. Since most of us can’t stay up for 14 hours straight, you want to plan breaks into your daily schedule that set you up for an easy sleep whenever you need one.
Having trouble studying? Or feeling like you’re totally stuck on your assignments and tests? You’re not alone. A major benefit of studying in its purest form is that you can make rapid progress. However, once you’ve finished your class, it can get a little complicated.
In studying, you generally allocate your hours based on the type of tasks you need to complete in the course, rather than studying for exams. Since you’re studying at various paces throughout the day, it’s important that you give each period its own distinct rhythm.
For example, when you’re studying for an exam, your focus is set by how much time you have left in lecture. During this time, you insert breaks where you eat or relax, and come back to the note-taking session once the clock strikes nine. After the exam is over, you relax and then use the allotted time to study for the next assignment.