Study Tips


With exams coming up, I thought I’d give some of the things I’ve learned over the years about studying. I’ve observed that oftentimes people like to say they’re going to study, or sit down with every intention of studying, but never really do the studying. It’s very easy to get distracted or do nothing of substance when trying to prepare for a test, especially when there are no concrete review materials for you to use. I find that sitting down with my notes and reading over them simply is not enough. I have to interact with the material in order to understand it. 

Of course, every class and every subject, even down to every chapter, you should study differently for. You can’t study the same way for APUSH that you study for math or English – it just won’t work. So, you should evaluate your class type and material in order to figure out the best study method. 
Beyond that, there are different levels of studying. I categorize them by how often I do each type:
  • Daily – you should be doing something more or less on a daily basis for each class each day to ensure you keep up with the material. Some classes, often electives, are exempt from this, but it’s a good general rule. Doing daily review helps solidify the material and reduce cramming at the end of the unit.
  • Weekly – this type of studying is done usually in chunks once per week. It can be a more in-depth version of daily studying, encompass some form of review, and some form of preview. It may also involve asking and answering questions, or working more hands-on with the materials.
  • Light Test Studying – this is what you do in the week or so leading up to the test. Prepare study guides, answer study questions, get notes together, etc.
  • Heavy Test Studying – one to two days before the test, dive into the ideas, examples, and processes that you need to review. This is much more intensive than the others, but can be significantly reduced by putting more emphasis on the other categories
Here are some examples of how you can apply each of these to some common subjects, where I’ll walk you through how I study for each class: 
  1. English – this one can be a bit tricky. When it comes to reading books, the daily studying is just doing the actual reading and comprehending it. You may want to reflect on the book weekly, and read some interpretations or analyses of the book leading up to a test. I have weekly vocab, so I do some light test studying leading up to it, and that’s sufficient – you don’t always need to go all-out. 
  2. Physics – this one is a doozy. My daily studying consists of reviewing notes and completing any assigned problems to the best of my ability. When reviewing my notes, I annotate them and clarify anything I’m still finding confusing. Weekly, I review notes more intensively and fill out a unit overview as review. Leading up to the test, I watch concept videos and do practice problems. Right before the test, I do intensive problem practice, read my AP review book, and watch more videos on anything that’s confusing. Khan Academy is a great resource for this
  3. Art History – this is a less standard class, but my process can apply to any memorization-based class. Daily, I review the works that we discussed, and go through my Quizlet flashcards to work on memorizing the dates. Weekly, I make the Quizlets themselves, prepare my notes for the week, and add pictures to the snapshots. Leading up to the test, I do the Quizlet more intensively, and then as the test is one or two days away, I test myself on all the information. 
  4. German – I’m always studying German, whether it be through speaking to my friends even though they don’t understand me, listening to German music, or just thinking in German. When a quiz or test is announced, I practice vocabulary on Quizlet and work on writing the grammar out. 
  5. U.S. History – daily, I review, annotate, and clarify my notes, as well as do at least one page of textbook reading. Weekly, I work on terms guides and connections with concepts. Leading up to a test, I’ll complete study questions, study terms by sorting them by category and chronology, and watch videos on big topics to tie it all together. 
  6. Pre-calculus/Trigonometry – math is all about practice. If I keep up with the homework, it’s usually enough to go over notes and redo a couple of the practice problems done in class as the test date approaches. If I’m struggling with the topic, Khan Academy is a great resource to get through the information and learn it in a new way than the teacher teaches it. 
You really only need to spend 10-25 minutes on the subjects you feel you need to study daily. On weekends, maybe up it to 25-30 minutes. Set a timer and do it at the beginning of homework – it’s easy and gives you momentum to tackle harder tasks, like those physics problems. For more serious study sessions, figure out a set time and location to do it and don’t waiver from it – this will prevent procrastination. 
Let’s recap some of the study methods I mentioned there, so you can try them: 
  • Review notes
  • Study Quizlet
  • Do practice problems
  • Apply the material
  • Khan Academy 
  • Create study guides
  • Categorize information
  • Read textbook or review book 
I like to think of studying as something continually done throughout a course, not an activity that happens before a test. There’s a certain shift in mindset between taking a class and studying a subject. When I switched from the mindset of just taking a class and learning the information, to actively studying a subject, I’ve found it makes me feel more inclined to keep up with the information and it’s given me more motivation to do well and understand the concepts. 
How do you like to study? Let me know!
❤ Alicia

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