It’s a fact of college life: sooner or later, you’ll find yourself stuck with a pile of disorganized notes you never bothered to look over, a glass of your caffeinated beverage of choice, and mere hours before an exam that could make or break your grade.
While studying regularly is still crucial to good academic performance, there are a number of simple ways to make preparing for those exams far less grueling.
First of all, it’s important to remember that good study habits start with good notes. It might seem boring, but making sure to take thorough notes during class lectures might help you avoid wasting valuable time looking things up later on.
That’s not to say you have to write down your professor’s lectures word-for-word, though. Good notes aren’t a transcript of a class session, but a summary.
Once you’ve got your notes ready to go, make sure to study them a little bit every day.
While hitting the books after hours of class certainly might not sound appealing, taking 30 minutes or so to look over your notes daily could save you from an eight-hour cram session on the night before exams.
This is a strategy that many students swear by.
“If you learn everything all at once in a late-night cramming session, none of the information will make it into your long-term memory,” said senior political science major Ward Lindeman. “You have to study every day to make it long-term.”
No matter how good you are at reviewing your notes, you’ll probably have a few long study sessions over the course of the semester.
A great way to help yourself through these is to take regular study breaks every hour or so.
Of course, not all styles of studying work for everyone. As a result, it’s entirely possible the method you’re currently using to study might be giving you less than ideal results.
The important thing is to realize this early on and change it, a problem that’s often observed by resident adviser T.J. Aiyash.
“One of the most common study-related problems I see is students waiting until they do poorly on a test to study differently,” Aiyash said.
“If you don’t seem to be remembering much info from studying normally, try joining a study group, signing up for tutoring, or even studying in a different environment, such as the library.”
Finally, there are a few small things you can do that don’t involve studying at all. One often-overlooked tip is to get at least eight hours of sleep on the night before a major test.
Another quick way to help yourself on exam day is to eat a good breakfast. Even a piece of toast with peanut butter can kick-start your brain.
Studying might not always be easy or fun, but if you start making an effort to learn the material now, there’s a good chance you’ll have it memorized by the time final exams roll around.