Study Like You Mean It: 5 Essential Exam Prep Tools

College offers a fresh slate for many students who many not have had the best academic career. It’s important to not slip into bad habits, especially at the beginning of your collegiate career. There are a number of strategies that can help you prepare for the worst and best of exams.

1. Flash Cards

I always like to start with the most obvious choice, but, honestly, I cannot recommend these enough. Flash cards are an amazing study tool. They allow you to mix up important terms and concepts so that you can’t use context cues for hints. Unfortunately, when you study out of a book or your notes you are aware of the chapter and its over-arching themes, which inform you on what each concept will be focused on. Not to mention, the physical act of writing out key terms will help you commit them to memory. These work great with a study buddy too, which is a convenient segway to the next tip.

2. Study Partner

Why study alone, when you’re surrounded by hundreds of students who are also invested in passing their next exam? We often think of our textbooks and professors as great resources, but ignore our peers. This is much to your disadvantage because other students can provide brilliant insights as well since they are facing the same trials and tribulations as yourself. Working with a partner can be helpful as they may be able to put a concept or definition in terms that you hadn’t thought of before. Also, you can discuss and argue over answers, which will ingrain the concepts further into your memory (especially if it gets a little heated).

3. Take Notes in Class

Yes, your professor will more times than not provide you with all the slides used in class, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take notes. As I’ve said before, writing things down or typing them in your laptop (if your professor doesn’t mind) helps you learn the material through another physical sense besides sight and vision.

4. Examples

If you really want to take effective notes, you need to create examples for the concepts you’re learning. Using real life examples or made up ones allows you to connect the abstract terms to something more concrete like a familiar image or event. The more connections you make, the more likely you’ll be able to recall the necessary material on the day of the exam. These can be especially helpful when there is a short answer portion of the tests where examples are commonly needed to completely answer a question.

 5. Don’t Start the Night Before

If you’ve ever had a problem you couldn’t solve or a video game level you couldn’t pass, you may have noticed that you’re able to overcome these challenges the next day, almost inexplicably. Overnight, our brains process the events that occur during the day, which actually helps us learn. Everyone knows that a good night’s sleep is important before a big test, but spending more than one night studying allows you to fortify the knowledge in your head. Also, spreading the studying out over multiple days allows you to spend less time during each study session as a bonus!

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Ryan Schapals

Ryan Schapals

Ryan Schapals is a senior at DePaul University studying Creative Writing and Psychology. Outside of class, Ryan can be found working in the Pysch Lab or at a local health clinic. When he's not distracted by cat videos, he tries to balance his time between playing guitar, writing prose, and running around the soccer field.