January 20, 2021
Studying. Few of us like to do it, but it’s totally necessary for nailing exams and earning awesome grades. If you think you’re a bad test-taker, you might be super smart, but lack some of the best strategies for effective studying. Here are some tips for excelling at studying and doing everything you need to ace your next test.
1. Plan a Study Schedule
You might think you should focus on the hardest subjects first, but that can be a counterproductive study habit. Instead, create a plan that designates extra time to focus on more challenging subjects but still includes time to review everything that’s going to be on the test. That way you’ll be well versed in all the topics you need to know and won’t be thrown off by a test question that references a subject you forgot to study. For example, if you have three hours to study for a test that covers six chapters of your textbook, and you really struggled with chapter three, create a plan like this:
Review Chapter 1 & 2: 30 minutes
Review Chapter 3: 50 minutes
Chapter 4-6: 55 minutes
Re-review Chapter 3: 45 minutes
This schedule prioritizes chapter 3 but still ensures that you review everything else at least once. So instead of assuming that you’ll be able to recall information, you’ll go into the test 100% sure that you’re prepared for anything that could be on it.
2. Create Essay Outlines
When you sit down to write a big essay for an end of semester project, it’s common to experience writer’s block. The weight of it’s importance can stir up so much anxiety that you feel totally out of ideas.
Rather than starting off your writing session with no direction or plan, prepare an outline beforehand. This is a complete breakdown of everything you want to include in your introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. In the outline, you’ll want to include everything from clever hooks, transitional phrases, and quotations from outside sources. Outlining helps you determine the order of information you’re presenting and what ideas you want to focus on the most. That way when you sit down to write, all you have to do is transcribe everything into an essay format. If you need help getting started, use Scribbr to help you craft the perfect essay outline.
3. Review Your Notes
This might sound obvious, but reviewing your notes before starting any assignment, even homework, is imperative. Doing a quick re-read not only assures you understand every concept before diving in, it can also prevent you from making critical mistakes, which is especially important for writing assignments. Make sure to read a writing prompt in its entirety so you know exactly how many paragraphs you have to write, what topics you need to discuss, and the format it needs to be written in. Nothing is worse than spending two hours on a 1,200-word essay only to realize it only needed to be 800.
4. Test Yourself!
You don’t have to wait for the big exam to get into test mode. Create weekly quizzes for yourself so you can better absorb what you’ve been learning. Focus on identifying the main topics your teacher highlights, especially points that have been brought up multiple times, because they will be on the test.
To find material for your practice test, use questions from quizzes you’ve already taken as well as review sections located in textbook chapters. You can also use online platforms like Complete Test Preparation to find practice tests for math, science, reading comprehension, and more.
5. Compare with Friends
We’ve all had that one classmate who always seems to have the right answer and aces every test without even trying. Rather than seeing them as your biggest competition, use them as your greatest resource. Gather a group of your most prodigious classmates to do a weekly review of the lessons that’ll be on the test. Studying together helps you discover where you can improve, while you share your strengths to help others improve. This way, you’ll all become better students together!
6. List Your Distractions
Do you ever get distracted when you need to study? Not only by Netflix and phone notifications, but by chores too? Chores that your parents are harping about because they needed to get done yesterday? When other important tasks are competing with your studying duties, don’t ignore them. Instead, write them down and choose a time when you’ll be available to complete them. Set a timer that requires you to put in one hour of intense studying. When it goes off, allow yourself 10-20 minutes to get these chores done.
Let’s be honest—many distractions, like texting your significant other, are far less imperative than chores. Many of us are tempted to check Instagram likes on our latest post or scroll through news stories on Twitter, when we should be focusing on studying for a final. This can lead us to take constant mini-breaks that grow into all-day distractions. Putting off our work all day can lead to feelings of guilt or stress as we run over schedule and fall behind on studies.
The solution is to not deprive ourselves of study breaks. Instead, we can reward ourselves for an hour’s worth of intense studying with 10 minutes of free time. This way, we give our minds a break and can indulge in our favorite pastimes, guilt-free.
7. Study Offline
While we highly recommend using online platforms for study tips, time away from the computer allows you to purely focus on studying and not get distracted by the internet. Find a screen-free environment to study in, like the kitchen table, a comfy chair, or outdoors. This’ll give you a nice change of scenery and your eyes a break from the screen.
There’s also plenty of online tools you can use without internet access like Desmos, which is a website that provides a variety of calculators and graphing tools. Use these tools while your computer is in offline mode. That way you’ll have access to all the helpful resources Desmos offers without being distracted by email or social media alerts.
8. Leave Your Friends on Read
With instant messaging, friends are just a text away. But are group chats more important than grades? If you struggle to avoid text messages and Snapchats when you’re supposed to be studying, hold your friends accountable. Let them know that you have a big test to study for and won’t be reachable for the next few hours. If they know how important this test is, they won’t create unnecessary distractions to prevent you from succeeding. If they’re still hitting you up during studying sessions, put your phone on “Do not Disturb” and update your messaging settings so only emergency contacts can reach you while your studies are in session.
9. Ask Your Teacher
It’s good practice for students to regularly ask questions during class. It not only helps you better understand a subject but can provide clarity to other students who have the same questions. However, asking too lengthy of questions can monopolize your teacher’s ability to help other students, and can make you look inconsiderate of those who want to move on to the next lesson. Instead of disrupting other students’ time, pull your teacher aside after class and ask when they’ll have free time to help you with tougher subjects.
Oftentimes teachers’ have office hours where you can get one-on-one help. Going to office hours demonstrates your intentions to improve your schoolwork and shows that you don’t want to take away from their in-class time. Plus it puts you on their good side—they might even be more willing to boost you to an A- when your end of semester grade is 89.8%.
…And if that Doesn’t Help
Every good teacher should be willing to provide extra help to students that need it. However, you won’t always have the privilege of teachers who are willing to help us during their off-time. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to seek tutoring in subjects that aren’t your strong suit. Here at Tutor Portland, we provide in-home and online tutoring sessions with first-class tutors throughout the Portland area. Each of our hand-selected tutors will provide you with the specialized attention you need to raise your grades, pass your tests, and get accepted to your dream school. Start your free online introductory session today!