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5 Study Tips from a College Graduate

January 20th, 2011

College can be tough. Endless homework assignments, semester-long projects, and heavily weighted tests are all on your mind while you work your full-time job and try to maintain a respectable social life. While procrastination is probably the #1 GPA killer in colleges and universities today, anxiety from important tests also cause a lot of trouble.

There are many test structures used in a variety of classes in an assortment of fields of study, so one set of study guidelines that can be used for all would be hard to put together. Hopefully, at least, you can use one of my 5 study tips below to help you on your next big test.

1. Print It Out
Most tests are still done with a good ole pen and paper. If you’re going to be testing on paper, you should study on paper too. I believe that you can maximize your studying efforts by mimicking the style of the test and the surrounding environment while you study. So if you’re test outline is on-line or it’s based off of many power-point presentations, print them out and stop staring at your computer screen. What also may be of help is a way of organizing the material so you can study more efficiently. For me, I found it a pain to constantly flip from one page to another in a continuous search for what I needed to study at that moment in time. To fix this problem, I laid out all of the material, in order, on my bed so I could easily scan all of it. This helped me get the big picture of the entire test and also saved me time because I never had to search for anything. (Studying for my last exam at Rhode Island College)

Studying2. Trust Yourself
Sometimes the depth of one test is overwhelming. This is when too much time is spent studying on unnecessary material. If the test is going to cover 6 different topics and you’re already strong in 2 of them, don’t focus on them! Dedicating time to the areas in which you are weakest should be an obvious move. You may be taking a test that involves a lot of information, definitions, and understanding of multiple ideas that will need to be applied, not just repeated, come test time. This was the case in my Organizational Behavior class in the Spring of 2010. Instead of devoting time to making sure I knew how to apply definitions and concepts to different scenarios, I studied the definitions and concepts alone. I knew that if I thoroughly understood the material at hand I would be able to apply it correctly when I needed to. Had I worried about the application part, a lot of time would have been spent reading examples and I would not have had the time to get a full grasp on the basic material.

3. Turn Up The Volume
This is something that I use all the time now for test preparation. Once I have studied all of the material and believe I have an understanding of everything I need to know, I put my earphones in and turn the iPod on. Say you need to define the term marketing–whoever your professor is or whichever textbook you are using the definition is probably a little lengthy. Or say you need to list 8 styles of management and briefly describe each one. When you’re at the point of being able to do this, try it with your iPod volume on high in your ears. Try repeating the definition or list in your head; the higher the volume, the more difficult this is. It requires a lot of concentration to focus your thoughts on what you are trying to repeat in your head while disregarding the beat of the music and voice of the artist. Try this with a song that you know you love, making it more difficult to resist enjoying it. This is why before any test, you will see me with my iPod on, sharpening my knowledge. What’s the point of this? If you can remember definitions, concepts, lists, etc. while you can barely hear your thoughts, imagine how clearly you will think in a silent room while you take the test.

4. Eliminate Unnecessary Stimuli
When you’re studying…study! Get off of Facebook, stop watching Mad Men, and quit teasing your cat with a laser pointer. Get down to business, it will save you time and improve your results. Even on test day, it doesn’t hurt to review key material, and no I don’t mean last minute studying. So instead of surfing the net in the computer lab or chatting with friends in the hall…focus. I even go as far as wearing the hood of my sweatshirt so my peripherals are blocked. If my mind is taking in the visuals of only what’s in front of me, rather than all that is around, it has more room to concentrate on the test. Scientifically that statement may be completely incorrect, but it works in my reasoning.

5. Lucky Something
We’ve all heard of lucky pennies, lucky socks, and just about anything else you can think of. For my last two semesters at Rhode Island College, whenever there was a big test, I donned my black RIC hoodie with an anchorman (school mascot) and text that has just about completely faded away. Is it really lucky? Does Lady Luck help me write down the correct answer? Don’t think so! What the hoodie does is give me confidence. Having a great deal of confidence doesn’t mean you can lay off the studying and expect the same performance. However, where there is confidence, there isn’t anxiety. I’ve seen way too many people stressed out of their minds about a test and I have to believe this affects their performance (not thinking clearly, second-guessing answers, rushing through questions, etc). Grab your lucky cap and walk tall!

Different techniques work for different people, maybe one of these will help you with an upcoming test. I know that when I take my GMAT next month I’ll be wearing my black hoodie and my lucky lobster boxers.

How do you prepare for tests? Do you have any study methods that you would like to share?

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