Part of studying for a big exam is not using your energy on being overwhelmed and worried by the volume of material. “Chunking” it (the amount of material to know and understand) down helps in this case – a “plan of attack” for studying the volume of material helps.
If you are in high school, college, or graduate school, I would suggest to start early to study for an exam. We all know that procrastinating until the night before an exam is not the way to be the most successful!
After a class, study your class notes/text material while it is “fresh” in your head. You only need to take 30 minutes after class to “get the content into your head” from that lecture. Doing this on a consistent basis means you get better scores in the end and far less likely to have to “cram” for hours the night before the exam. Another benefit from this approach is that you could probably take the night “off” prior to the exam because you have prepared “up front.” While all your classmates are stressing about the exam, you are “kicking back” relaxing.
When I tutor people studying for a certification or licensure exam, I suggest “chunking down” the material by content areas. Taking each content area that you have to know something about and scheduling a day or a week to study this content will help overcome the overwhelm especially if the exam is a big one. Actually writing out a schedule of what you will cover by day and week will help you arrive prepared for the day of the exam. It is imperative to have a written and scheduled “plan of attack.”
Once you have a written and scheduled plan, you should consider a variety of study techniques. Listed below are my top 12.
- Study pictures in your text or draw your own pictures of the concepts to learn.
- Study with a buddy or a group.
- Teach a concept to someone else and put concepts into your own words when you do.
- Say things out loud as you are studying.
- Provide examples of concepts to illustrate that you understand them.
- Record a lecture and listen to it again and again and again.
- Ask questions of yourself about the content and of your instructor or some expert.
- Test and test again and get feedback of correct or incorrect concepts as soon as possible by finding the answer to questions that you missed and highlighting them in the text and/or in your notes.
- Understand first, then memorize.
- Repetition is critical so repeat, repeat, and repeat again.
- Make note cards of important points and carry them with you for review at “down” times.
- Use quizzes, chapter outlines, exercises from the text or online websites.
- Make up acronyms, sayings, songs, and/or incidents to remember concepts as memory tricks.
If you have had average results before, whatever you do, don’t study the same way. You have to change something in order to get different results!