The most common way for professors to measure their students' learning is during exams but for many students this is an issue. That is because despite tests being a good measurement, many students fail exams simply because they are nervous, not because they don't know the answers. It isn't unusual for a student who had amazing grades during high school to do much worse in college simply because they are bad at test-taking at a college level. If you are facing that problem, there are some slight adjustments you can make that will help you succeed on your next exam.
Studying Is Important… But
While in high school it is sometimes possible to pass a test without studying, that is almost never true in college; to pass an exam, you must prepare. This means that you need to put in extra effort outside of class, but that is not all. Most people assume that studying is simply learning, but in reality, understanding is just as important, if not more so, than simply learning a fact. Many students feel that the best thing to do is stay up the night before the exam, memorizing everything in their textbook and notes. While this can work in some cases, it is not ideal. That is because memorizing focuses on "who" and "what" but in reality you should focus on "why", "when" and "how."
Let’s take a history class for example; most students not majoring in history hate the idea of the class because there will be a lot of memorization; let’s look at the entire picture for a second. If you memorized that the Mayas built pyramids in the southern region of Mexico you will not know much more than that. If you go a bit deeper and you realize that they built them as temples to the different deities, that they started building them over 2,000 years ago and that they used stucco, then you will have more information. That information will make the first premise easier to understand. You still know that the Mayan built pyramids, but because you know “why” and “how” you remember that information without as much effort. Understanding is the key and not memorizing.
Not The Night Before The Test
Many students decide to cram all the information they need into their heads right before a big exam. They use the theory that this information will still be fresh, making it easier to remember. Although some people will tell you this is a bad idea, most will not explain why and you won't change your habits unless you know why your current ones don't work.
When you cram, you put a lot of facts into your head with the assumption it will be fresh in the morning, making it easier to remember. The problem with this is that when you cram large chunks of information, you are actually making it easier to forget things or mix up facts. To prove that point, look at the number 3,765. It is a four digit number and if you say it 5 times out loud you will probably remember it in an hour. There is even a good chance that you will remember it tomorrow the same way that you would remember a pin number or a lock combination. Now what are the chances that you will remember the number 374,653,098,219,547,134,054,832.273.009654?
Instead of learning something new the night before an important exam, you should use this time to refresh that information. Keep in mind that it is usually more effective to learn facts in small pieces. Although some parts won't make sense until you combine them with other information, it will be easier to forget important things if you try to learn it all at once.
Use Flash Cards
One of the best study tools is flash cards because they are an excellent way to help you review information in small doses, making it easier to remember. Flash cards are also great because when you write the information out by hand to create the cards, this will help you remember them. When using flash cards, remember that you want to understand, not just memorize.
One thing that makes flash cards such a great study method for college level tests is that you won't have to take a heavy textbook with you to study. All you have to do is take your small pile of flash cards and start studying. They are great for remembering things such as names and dates and are a great way to study with a friend. When using the flash cards, don't simply go to the next card after getting an answer right. Take a moment to explain to yourself why that information is true.
One of the hardest things to remember is dates, but the good news is that there is an easy method. If you have to remember a year, think of other events that happened that year. One example would be the year 1492 which is when Columbus’ first expedition reached land in the Caribbean. 1492 is also the year when King James IV concluded his alliance with the French and against England. If you know the year 1492 because of the Columbus expedition and associate it to King James IV then you will also remember the year of his alliance with the French. 1492 was also the year when 100,000 people were expelled from Sicily. If you remember that the events in Sicily happened the same year as Columbus’ first expedition then you will remember 1492.
Association can even help you remember multiple things; just be sure to remember the event you associate them with. This method works because it lets you use less information.
Association also works for names as well as dates. If you can't remember the name of a historical figure, try associating it with one of your friends' names. This is usually the secret method of those who remember names.
If you follow those tips, you will probably improve your academic performance almost immediately.