There is no "one right way" to study. There are many different techniques and styles of studying and the trick is to find which of these will work best for you for the particular type of test you will be taking. The following are intended as hints and suggestions.
- Find Out About The Test:
Find out what kind of test it will be: multiple choice, true - false, fill in the blank, essay, problem solving? If you can find a copy of an old similar test, use it as a study guide. Quiz yourself the same way you expect to be required to answer the questions on the test.
- Pick the Right Material to Study:
Make sure you have a complete list of everything that might be source material for the test: text book pages, class notes and lectures, supplemental material, homework assignments. If you have limited study time available, concentrate on the things the teacher has indicated are the most important. Reread your homework assignments, reread your class notes carefully (taking good class notes makes a big difference in test results). Try to at least skim all reading assignments.
- Learn from Previous Mistakes:
If you already took one test from the same course or professor, look it over and try to understand why you made any mistakes and what you can do to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
Do you study with the television or radio on? Some people not only prefer to study with some music or other distraction, but they absorb better when they study that way. Other peole need quiet and very few distractions in order to study well. By the time you graduate from high school, you should have some idea which will work best for you. Sometimes people who study perfectly well while listening to music turn the music off to study because they think they "should". More often, people who study best with no distractions will put themselves in a distraction-filled situation when they should go to the library or study in a closed room.
- Time of Day, Pacing:
Most people study best during daylight hours; however, there are some who study better during the late night or early morning because that is when there is less interference. The most effective studying takes place for most people 15 to 20 minutes after they start to study. Most people need to take a break from studying every 40 to 50 minutes. The brain needs a rest every so often to process the new information.
- See - Say - Write - Repeat:
Different people absorb information best when it is presented in different ways. Some people can passively read some material and retain it well after the first or second reading. Some people must hear the material, so they read it aloud to themselves. Some people find that only writing and/or rearranging, reorganizing the material will help them absorb it. In all cases, the best way to memorize material is to repeat it.
- Elimination Lists:
One technique for studying involves making a list of items that you would want to memorize. As you learn each one, cross it off the list and concentrate on the remaining items. Finally, test yourself on all items. Repeat as necessary.
- Over-Learn the Material:
One mistake that many people make, especially when learning new material for the first time is to assume they know the material when they haven't really tested themselves. It is better to over-study than under-study.
- Mentally Review the Material when Not Studying:
Many people find that it helps to take one last look at the hardest study material before they go to sleep and review it once at that time. Thinking about your study material when you are riding a bus or washing dishes can be very helpful.
- Time and Tests:
When you are studying for a test, try to start studying early enough so that you can get a full night's sleep the night before the test. This may require some planning.
- State Specific Memory:
State-specific memory is a term used in psychology that means you remember something best when you are in the same state of mind as when you were exposed to it.
For optimum results in testing, try to be in the same mental state when you study as you will be when you are tested. Don't drink lots of coffee to study if you are going to be caffeine free on the day of the test. Don't drink lots of alcohol when you are studying if you are going to be sober on the day of the test.