These study tips are tried and true

Ace your next test!

Graduation StudentCredit: bplanet

 Do you have a test coming up?  Are you getting that sinking feeling in your stomach?  Are your hands getting sweaty?  Apply these study skill tips and they will help you ace that test!

Tips How To Study #1 - Index Cards
The brain processes material best in chewable bits.  Get at least one package of white, plain index cards.  Now get out the information you need to learn.  Spread it out in front of you.  On each individual card write down one fact you need to know, yes, only one per card.  This could be key individuals, basic concepts, important dates or vocabulary definitions important for your test.  Get all of that information onto the index cards.  Yes, there should be a lot of cards.  Think of it as a process.  In the next step you are going to organize the cards. 

Are you done?  Good.  The way your brain absorbs information most effectively is unique for each one of us. Think about how you view the world.  Say you had to study the American Revolutionary War.  Big topic.  Too big, so let's break it down.  Now think about how your brain might organize the information in just the first month of the American Revolutionary War.  Do you see the war  through the places it was fought?  Maybe you think about the techniques use in the actual fighting.  Would you categorize by the kind of weapons used?  Maybe you see the war through military and diplomatic personalities involved in the war?  Think about how you see this information in your mind. The way you organize the information in your mind is how you should organize your index cards.     

Tips How To Study #2 - Study Group
So, you know that you excercise more if you have a buddy that does the workout with you, right?  That way it is harder to miss a workout, you are letting yourself and your friend down, right?  The same hold true for studying.  A great way to motivate yourself to study for a test if you have other people depending on you to deliver the material.  This technique is very good for people who have procrastination tendencies.   A study group is a good way to review information before your test.  Start one yourself!  Separate the information you need to know and give some to each person.  That person is now responsible for learning that information, mastering the material.  At the next study group meeting each person is responsible to teach their assigned information to the group and answer any questions.  It makes sense that if you know you have to teach this material, then your motivation level would be high to really master the material yourself. 

Tips How To Study #3 - Know Your Limits
Yes, you know the situation.  Cramming material the night before, not sure if anything is really sticking.  The writing in front of you gets blurry and you realize that you have drifting in the Caribbean for the past 40 minutes.  It is time to get up!  The brain has about 45 minutes of concentration at a time.  After 45 minutes you need to pump some good oxygen into your brain.  Open the window, touch your toes, stretch your back or some other kind of physical activity that will pump your blood around.  Often, when you stop and relax your mind you get the best ideas and insights.

Cutout of a Boy Reading Under a TreeCredit: by jannoon028 @ Rest Time(129494)Credit: Michelle Meiklejohn at


Tips How To Study #4 - Add To What You Know

The brain acquires unfamiliar information best by attaching the new information to already learned information.  For example, before you learn your way around the menu at Starbucks you had to learn a baseline, what plain coffee tasted like.  After that was established, then you could add milk, cream, soy milk and found out what you liked best.  You also had to figure out what sweetener you wanted to add, but you had to learn about honey, raw sugar, artificial sweeteners.  The there was also the whole world of flavored syrups.  So, your brain mastered all of that information by adding unfamiliar bits at a time, incorporating the new information to the already mastered material.

It is the same process for anything else you learn. Reflect what you already know about a topic, what your starting point is.  You might surprise yourself and know more than you think you do.   If you were learning information about the American Revolutionary War, then think about what you already know about leadership in conflict or the nationalities involved.  Utilize what you know already and tie that information into the new material.

Tips How To Study #5 - Ask For Help When You Need It
Yes, this is obvious.  Okay, I happened to be one of those stubborn people out there who won't ask for help when they need it, so I had to add this tip.  Listen to me.  Stop spending hours in uncertainty and ask for help.  Email is nearly effortless or you could be old fashioned and meet someone face to face.  You know people are more likely to help someone they can see, so get out of your room and become visible.    Almost every professor or teacher has office hours, some will meet with you after class, but you will never know if you don't ask.  Make an appointment, mark your calendar and then show up! 

Think about what questions you want to ask the professor beforehand.  Be specific.  Ask them what will be covered on the next test.  What will be the format of the test?  Are there essay questions?  Ask the professor if they have their own tips in taking the test.  Remember to ask the professor specific questions you might have about the information that will be covered on the test.  Your professor might know about a student tutoring service that would be helpful if you had additional questions.  Don't forget to share all of the information you have learned with your study group so everyone can benefit.