Friday, January 22, 2016

Better Second Semester: Improve Studying Habits

Look. I know that first semester...well it was first semester. You were still getting into the flow of going to school and studying for tests. That was just the practice round, and you're ready to go now. Now it's time to charge into your second semester with an Elle Woods attitude after Warner told her she wasn't smart enough for law school. There is just an invincible feeling that you get starting off the second semester, so here's one way to make it better: improve your studying habits. Here are my nine tips that can help you improve your study habits this semester.

Tip #1

Read the chapter! We are all very aware that our teachers make an effort to drill this into your brain at the beginning of the semester, but who actually follows this tip? However, I am coming from the point of view of a fellow student, and I full heartedly believe this is the not-so-secret advice to doing well on tests. This is a great way to prepare for each class because you will better understand the notes and lecture the teacher gives. If you have time, read the chapter through again right before an exam for another refresher. I just find it to be a great studying tip since there is a goal that you have to complete in doing so. I realize that not everyone has enough time to read everything, so at least skim. Not just look at titles, but read the titles and skim the paragraphs. It is better than nothing.

(photo from here) 

Tip #2

Start studying on Saturdays. Let's be real, my Saturdays are not very busy days. I tend to just sleep in super late and do laundry all day (Bonus life tip: Do laundry on Saturdays at college because no one does it that day.) Most people really don't do anything until later in the night, so why not knock out some homework that you would otherwise have to do on Sunday. Don't feel like you need to spend the entire day hard-core studying. That's what Sundays are for. Tackle one of your classes, and set a goal for yourself to complete all of your homework for that one class. Once Sunday comes around, it is the greatest feeling in the world knowing that you already have your homework completed for one class.

Tip #3

Look through your notes within 12 hours of taking them. Typically, I write down my notes for a class and then the next time I see them is when I am studying for the test. Once that test comes around, I have completely forgotten what I learned at the beginning of the chapter, and I feel as though I have to re-teach myself everything. To prevent this from happening, take a second look over your notes after class. Let's be real. The main goal while taking notes in class is to get as much written down as possible, so take this time to really study through everything. If I have time, I will actually re-write my notes since my first round is usually incredibly messy. It just makes me feel so much more organized when I have neatly written notes. Plus, it's a great refresher of the lesson.

(photo from here) 
Tip #4

Study for finals all semester long. I know. You are like "WHAT?!?" Calm down, and let me explain. You know how we always tell ourselves that we will start studying for exams weeks in advance, but that never really happens. Instead of trying that method, study all year long. I recommend taking one afternoon each week (do this on that Saturday afternoon when you never really do anything), and taking the time to look through all of your class notes you have taken. This may take just an hour, so throw your clothes in the washing machine and crack open your notebook. Again, this is just a way of keeping all of the information fresh in your mind all year long so that you don't have to re-learn anything. Don't think of it as studying, but think of it more of just reviewing what you have learned that semester. You will be so glad you did once final exams and mid terms come around the corner.

Tip #5

Create what I like to call a "POA" for final exams. No, it doesn't stand for "power of attorney." What I mean is "Plan of Attack." You can't just cram the night before for every test you take. It's never worked before, so why do you continue to do it? What I like to do is create a POA for how I will study for the test. I often have a hard time studying because there is no definite goal that I need to reach. In creating a POA, you create small goals that you plan to accomplish throughout the week in preparation. Plus, your brain retains information much better in small chunks as apposed to long, drawn out study crams. Here is an example.

First I need to read through the chapter. I may have done this before starting the chapter in class, or I section it into chunks as I cover different topics in class. I just make sure that I have read it all.

Next, I like to take a quick look through the notes. This is just a nice refresher of all of the material. If there is anything that I don't understand, this is a great time to ask the teacher or someone else in the class for help. It's way ahead, so you won't have to worry about having to schedule around other students who also have last minute questions.

(photo from here) 
After I have taken a look through my notes, I like to create my study guide. I pretty much make a study guide for every test I have because I find that it helps organize all of the information and notes into a neat and organized place. This also helps narrow down what exactly you need to know the test. As a bonus, I find this to be a great way of studying because you are essentially reviewing all of your notes by copying them down. As a bonus, it helps when studying for the final or mid term because you can just look through your study guides.

After I have completed my study guide, I will sometimes make flash cards. Flash cards don't work for every subject, but I try to use them as much as I can. I find that they are one of the best ways to study, especially for science or language classes. (Pro Tip: I know that colorful flash cards are really cute, but go for the basic white ones. I know that I have a tendancy to remember the color as apposed to the actually information on the card, so keeping them all the same color helps keep everything uniform.)

Past this step, my study habits vary depending on the subject, but I like to schedule out at least two days of actual studying.

(photo from here) 
Tip #6

Recite your notes out loud. Okay, this one is weird, but it works! I use to do this all of the time, and it helps so much. In doing this, you are using not just one of your senses (sight), but two (sound). Studies show that when you use more than one sense in doing something, you will remember it better. So find a quiet room to yourself and start reciting your notes!

Tip #7

Teach your notes to a classmate. This is one of my favorite ways to study! It's one thing to know the information well enough to take a test, but it's another to actually be able to teach it to someone. I remember in high school having a study hall right before my Econ class. One of my friends and I would sit there in study hall explaining different parts of the chapter to each other, and it helped me remember the information tremendously. (I actually got a better grade than my twin brother in that class, so I felt pretty proud of myself.)

(photo from here) 
Tip #8

Change locations if you are planning on doing homework for a long period of time. There is just something about a change of scenery that helps me to re-focus on my work. I got into a routine of switching locations every Sunday last semester, and I intend to keep on that trend for this next one. First, I like to start off at the library where I get any reading done. It's quiet, and I'm not tired yet, so I don't have to worry about falling asleep. After I have completed my reading, I would swap out my books at my room and then walk down to Starbucks. There I would get the rest of my homework done. I really liked taking that time to walk down to Starbucks because it was a great refresher from the dull library. Scope out a couple great studying places at the beginning of the semester, and don't be afraid to change after a couple of hours.

(photo from here) 
Tip #9

Take little breaks throughout your studying. You're brain retains information much better in small bursts as apposed to long, drawn out periods. Take just a five or ten minute break every half hour. I hear this all of the time; but, to be honest, I never knew what I was suppose to do during those little breaks. People always say that you should go walk around the block or do some jumping jacks, but that isn't very practical in a library or coffee shop. One think I like to do is watch a YouTube video. It just gets my mind off of things for a moment, and I get to watch something fun and entertaining. These little breaks will give you the refresher you need to come back to your work with a little boost of motivation.

I hope these tips help you at mastering your studying habits, so that you can have a fantastic second semester!


Cover photo from here.