You have an exam around the corner, and you are biting your nails, drinking your weight in coffee, and pulling all-nighters to cram in as much studying as possible before exam day, sound familiar? Although this is one method to revise for important exams, it probably isn’t the most productive or even the healthiest. Are you looking for the best ways to ace your next test? Then read on to find out more about some tips and tricks to use your time wisely, stay organized, and ace that next test!
The question I am sure you all have when it comes to studying for an exam is when should I study and how much time should I put aside for studying? There isn’t a definite answer to this question, however, it is important to note that the more hours you dedicate to studying the more likely you are to pass your exams, but it doesn’t mean it has to be all at once and take over your life. The first scientific strategy to think about is spacing. The more exposure we have to information at separate times, the better retention we have rather than trying to cram a lot of information at once. So, once you know when your exam is, divide your time up throughout the semester to study, then increase it slightly just before test day. When should you move on to new material? The recommendation is that you go over each piece of information five times before you are ready to move on to learn something new.
So, you now have your schedule in place, but how do you study? Read it all once? Repeat and recall? Mind maps? The most effective way to study is the testing effect, which is simply reading and remembering the information and testing yourself on it. Remember, the majority of your time should be retrieval practice, learning what you need to know, and then when you’re ready, test your knowledge by trying to reproduce the information or explain or solve a problem without looking at the source, you are relying on your working memory to find the answers.
One of the most frequent worries with students is exam anxiety, but there are ways that you can prepare yourself to avoid unnecessary stress leading up to the big exam day. Simulating the exam first is a powerful way to do this. When you are close to your big test, why not mix it up a little with your studying? Create the same test environment, the same seating posture, materials, and time constraints and you will be mentally preparing yourself in the best way. When test day arrives, you will know what to expect because you have been practicing what it will feel like to sit for an exam.
When studying, be sure to connect the terms you are learning with things you have already learned, your brain is more likely to remember if you correlate two terms together that are similar. Another top tip is to find a study partner or study buddy to help you, whether it’s flashcards, essay questions, or multiple-choice exam questions, it’s more fun and productive to do it with someone else.
What is active recall and why is it so effective when studying? Well, to put it simply, active recall is when you actively stimulate your memory for a piece of information you want to recall. It’s the moment that your brain goes into the archives to look for the specific fact or answer you are searching for. But it’s important to note that active recall is not the same as recognition, it’s when you find something in your memory that you really understand and know, not just recognize. So why is this an essential part of efficient learning? It’s the quickest and most effective way to study because the more you practice retrieving information for your memory, the better you get at it and it’s this retrieval technique that helps us to learn the information.
Quieten Your Mind
Does your mind wander when you try to study? Do you find yourself drifting from the task at hand because you are struggling to stay motivated and focused? Well, you may benefit from learning mindfulness. Research studies have proven that learning the art of mindfulness and practicing meditation can decrease your chances of experiencing a wandering mind whilst studying. So, the next time you find yourself procrastinating, breathe in, breathe out and pay attention to your breath, you will be amazed at the difference in your concentration, and you may just ace your next test.