College life can be challenging. There's the academic aspect and the social aspect and, of course, if you're young and this is a new venture, you don't know what to expect and are faced with some very new experiences that can trigger a bit of uncertainty.
And there are the tests. The examinations and papers you trudge through culminate in Finals Week and you're expected to do well on your finals.
I've been through it. I didn't do too shabby at mid-terms, term papers and finals. So I thought I'd offer some tips for studying for finals and acing those tests. This advice is meant for different personalities. Some people are very social, some are not so social. So, these tips work for everyone, though possibly they will need to be modified according to your own approach and your own tendencies.
I made this the first tip because it applies to all the other tips; that is, the other tips will be easier to use if you haven't procrastinated. Having said that, you can still use the other tips if you have procrastinated. It's just that you save yourself a lot of work and time and are better able to retain information you've studied if you don't procrastinate and study as you go during the semester.
So, this means a certain amount of time management. I personally don't think time management needs to be excessively uptight and regimented. It's as simple as going to the library after your first class and finding a spot you like and putting in about an hour of reading time.
This is also related to how well you pay attention in class and take notes. Ignoring a lecture is a way of procrastinating. You rationalize not paying attention to the lecture by telling yourself you'll figure out the information later; you'll give the professor a visit (which is a good idea generally, when you have an honest question) or you'll, in various ways, play catch-up later. It's better for your brain and your time to pay attention in the first place.
Of course, many professors like to go off on tangents, I know. Still, you're better off listening to the tangent so that you know when he sneaks in the pertinent info.
And take notes. Organize your notes with Heading, Subheadings and side-notes. You can do this if you give your attention in class.
So, this is related to not procrastinating. You can make flashcards during those intervals when you've stopped by the library to read.
Make the flashcards for very obvious definitions that you know you need to know on the exam.
I used flashcards extensively. I remember well my Plant Biology course. The professor went by the book which made my task easier, knowing what to study for and what would be on the test. Even his lectures were straight from the text book.
So, as an example, let's say I want to make a flashcard for the term photosynthesis. Photosynthesis goes on the blank side of the 3 by 5 index card (these cards, by the way, are some of the few cheap items at the campus bookstore) and, then, on the lined side you write the definition. Of course, you get this definition from the textbook or lecture notes, whichever the professor is more likely to want on the exam. This particular method of study is specifically effective for multiple choice tests, though it can be helpful if you're preparing for an exam with essay questions too. You have to have a decent grasp of the subject matter for essay exams, in fact, that's the point.
Here's how a flash card could help with an essay exam. Let's say the essay question is about how the 4th Amendment in the Constitution is related to Roe v. Wade and the right of a woman to make the decision to have an abortion.
Here's the basics: The Supreme Court decided that though the Constitution did not have a specific amendment explicitly saying we have privacy rights, it is still implied that we do in such amendments as the 4th Amendment which protects us from unwarranted searches and seizures.
That's the gist. On one side of the card you put 4th Amendment and Roe v. Wade. On the other side you put something like what I wrote about it above. How do you remember that info?
One way to remember information is to break it down into smaller components that can be mentally associated. My favorite way of doing this is to make it initials or an acronym. For instance, in the Roe v. Wade example, the relationship of the 4th Amendment and the court case involves privacy and what the amendment says about searches and seizures (that a cop, or the State, can't just search you and your home, etc., without some kind of probable cause). So, the acronym becomes PSS. I immediately think of the post-script on a letter--P.S. So, that's how I would associate it. I would think Roe v. Wade--4th Amendment--Post Script--PS--Privacy and Searches and Seizures. Yes, there's an extra S (Searches and Seizures) there but the Post Script-PS association is enough to jog my memory.
Now you have the essay exam. Make it organized. I would keep it standard. Using the 4th Amendment example, you start with a thesis statement or main idea, the basic answer. Roe v. Wade is related to the 4th Amendment because of the implications of privacy rights in it. Then you have 3 to several paragraphs explaining why that is: The Constitution guarantees us that we have more rights than those explicitly spelled out in the Constitution and the 4th Amendment implies we have a privacy right because it prohibits the Government from searching us and our homes without probable cause....
Then write a concluding paragraph that reiterates what you wrote and brings it all together.
Like I said, you will have to have an understanding of the material to really write a decent essay answer, but the flashcards are a good prompt to work that info in your brain a bit.
Get In Study Groups
This is a tip, as I alluded to earlier, that depends on your personality. I was always shy and reserved in college. However, I still managed to make friends and get into study groups. My advice on this is to make it natural. If you make friends in class and you all decide you want to get into a group study session, then, of course, do it. It can, definitely make studying fun. You can talk about the professor, talk about the class and, of course, discuss material and subject matter. You can quiz each other. You can break out the flashcards and work them with each other. It's social and academic all rolled into one. It's very conducive to studying, for certain. Find a study group room in the library or some spot you all like where you can keep it laid-back but studious for your group to study together.
By the same token, there are academic clubs on campus. You join these organizations when the club centers on subject matter you intend to focus on. Socializing in these clubs will give you friendships that can assist your learning in certain subject matters.
Also, if the college offers tutoring, go for that too. There are many resources on campus and they are for you. Go ahead and use them.
Location, where you study, is important. You're room-mates may be unruly, your neighbors like to party all day and night and the local cafe is too busy full of people. In this case, you'll usually have to find good spots in the library. Typically the library has cubicles, lounge type areas and, if no group is wanting a room, you can use the group study rooms.
Also, I personally, at some point, decided to exclude music from the studying equation. If I put on my favorite music while studying, I'd end up getting more into the music than studying.
Partake in your favorite distractions after your hour or two of study during the day. It's easier in the long run.
Of course, study groups give you the best of both worlds: There's socializing and study at the same time. And socializing does wonders for your energy and well-being, so it also helps your studying, indirectly.
So, get some study aids, flashcards, get in a study group if you feel like it, try not to procrastinate, organize your time and also have fun. You'll make it, you'll get through it and you might make some friends along the way.
It pays to pay attention and it pays to approach your studying in a smart way. Doing so saves you hassle and stress and makes the college life ride a smooth one.