Last week, all of Choctawk's bloggers sat around in Chick-fil-a and 3/4ths of us had a discussion about how much we hate taking tests (Hint: it was the English majors). Mary, on the other hand, made it very clear that she would rather take a test than write a paper any day. We agreed to disagree, but we also found a common ground in the fact that none of us knew how to study when we came to college.
Studying for a test in high school versus studying for a test in college (that probably counts for 20% of your final grade and is only one of two or three tests you'll take all semester) are very different processes. My first semester at MC, I would study for hours the day before the test and end up failing (failing in my view of the world, not an actual F). As we sat in Chick-fil-a and laughed about how hard tests can be and how intense test anxiety often is, we all agreed that we wished someone had told us how to study during that first round of midterms.
So today, all four of us are here to share with your our studying tips and tricks. We come from three different majors and four different points of view, but we're all upperclassmen, so we like to think we have a grasp of how college works.
Ashton || Senior, English Writing Major
I used to think that I could start studying for tests the night before I take it. Now, I understand that that's a really bad decision and doesn't set me up to do well. I typically start studying about three to four days before my test (depending on the amount of content on the test. If a test is big enough, I start studying up to ten days before it.), taking it one step at a time. I'm a visual learner, so I spend a lot of time rewriting notes, rereading notes, and highlighting key principles or ideas. I use a lot of color-coded pens and maybe too many pieces of paper, typically ending with a lot of scattered thoughts on pages. It doesn't make sense to anyone else, but it works for me, which is all that matters.
Emma || Junior, English Writing Major
I get distracted easily, so I have to break up my studying into shorter times. I set a timer on my phone for 20 or 30 minutes, hide my phone on the other side of the room, and make myself stay focused. When the timer goes off, I take a 5-10 minute break and then re-set the timer. Repetition works really well l for me, so I usually make flashcards or use Quizlet. I'll also re-write my notes and try to break things down into key words or phrases so they're easier for me to remember. Talking through the material with friends and asking each other questions is another trick that's worked for me recently. I'll use any or all of these methods depending on the test.
Mary || Senior, Studio Art Major
My test-taking strategy is to work with the format of the test. For multiple choice and short answer tests, I focus more on learning key words and the general concepts. For this type of test, I read notes and the text, highlighting the most important information. If I'm taking a longer response test, I make sure to read the material, and then I start writing down explanations (or if I have a willing listener, I'll talk the material out) to make sure I have a good understanding. By "teaching" another or writing down the information in a way in which I would explain it to someone else, I find that the material sticks more than if I just try to learn facts. However, for every type of test, I make flashcards. They're great for repetition and studying with a friend.
Nolie || Senior, English Lit Major
I'm a "long-distance" studier, meaning I study for long periods without breaks. It's just how my brain works. A lot of my homework involves pages of reading, and I find it helpful to complete a reading assignment at once. When it comes to memorizing my Latin/French vocabulary or learning poetry terminology, I find flashcards helpful. I can write the information down (which helps me learn), and then I go through my flashcards until I know the material. For writing papers, I usually set a goal that I want to reach, and if I get to that point, I'll reward myself with a quick break, or I'll switch to a different type of homework (like I said, "long-distance" studier).
As you can see, studying looks different for all of us, and it's likely that it'll look different for you, too. No matter what, though, it's important to be patient with yourself while you're learning all the ropes to this whole "college" thing. We promise, you'll figure it out eventually.
Before we sign off, here are some final tips to help you study well:
- If you're having trouble figuring out what the best way to study is, it might help to figure out what your learning style is. Click here to take a learning style quiz.
- Self-Control App || This is an app you can download that keeps you from visiting specified websites on your computer during a self-set time period. It's a good way to keep you on task.
- Instrumental music || It's been proven that listening to instrumental music can help you study while music with lyrics can distract you. Spotify has some great playlists and movie soundtracks which are always helpful and inspiring and just plain awesome. Click on the titles below to visit some instrumental albums and playlists.
Good luck with midterms, friends! We're rooting for you.
With midterms on our minds and textbooks in our backpacks,