Study guides are tools that can be used to help reduce the stress associated with taking a test. If you’re covering a lot of ground, it can be intimidating to try to condense all of the information into a single, easily digestible resource. You can, however, ace your next test and prepare for any exam in the future if you know a few tricks for sorting information and finding a design that works for you.
Part 1 Formatting Your Study Guide
1. Make the form correspond to the function. It is possible to find many different types of study guides, each of which is formatted to suit a specific subject area and learning style. Whatever you’re studying for, there’s a study guide that’s not only appropriate for the subject matter, but also appropriate for your specific learning needs in that subject. Create the most user-friendly study guide you can out of the information you’ve gathered.
Think about using color-coding sections in your study guides or idea mapping to draw out the information and make it more quickly accessible if you are a visual learner.
If you have a linear thinking style, arrange the information in a chronological or alphabetical order so that you can learn one thing at a time and then move on to the next.
If you need to emotionally connect with information in order to fully comprehend it, organise your notes into narrative form in order to better understand it. Translation: Transform mathematical concepts into a storey that you can relate to, and then organise your study guide like a short storey that you can recite in order to remember how to apply the formulas.
It’s important to use a format that will help you memorise information efficiently if you are good at memorising information quickly. This could be anything from recording yourself reciting vocabulary words and definitions and listening back to them on your iPod throughout the day to creating flash cards and testing yourself on a regular basis.
2. Construct concept maps in order to connect main ideas and prioritise information. Concept maps are created by writing each main idea into a separate box and connecting them together according to their chronological order or importance. Then, using the main ideas as a starting point, connect branches of associated information. This method of creating a study guide provides a good visual representation of how subject material fits together to form a complete concept.
“The Space Race” could be the main heading of a concept map for a history chapter on space flight, with subheadings for the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as information about specific missions, projects and successes and failures in the chapter’s context.
A formal outline, such as the one you might be required to write for an essay assignment, is an example of a concept map in action. If outlining is effective for you and helps you organise information in a way that is useful to you, outline the information you intend to study. Formal outlines can be useful as study guides, but only if you find it easy to write them out in the first place. If creating one would be too stressful, look for an alternative solution.
Process or procedure diagrams, which visually represent processes or procedures that take place in a series of defined steps, can be useful in a variety of situations. These begin with a central concept and are organised from left to right in such a way that the most important key factors are highlighted in the order in which they need to occur.
Timelines are useful for outlining a series of chronological events, and they are most commonly used in subjects such as history, politics, and biology to accomplish this.
Whenever you’re studying, it can be beneficial to prioritise learning broad facts, formulas, and concepts, as well as the relationships that exist between these elements. Then it will be easier to recall information such as historical dates, names, and other details in the future.
3. Make use of comparison charts to draw attention to the differences between key concepts. When it is necessary to compare and contrast a group of ideas that are related to one another, create study guides using comparison charts or tables. It is possible to use tables to organise specific parallels in history or biology, or to compare and contrast different writers for a literature course.
For example, in a comparison chart containing different plant species, the names of the various plants might be listed in different column headers, with the kingdom, family, and genus of the plants listed in rows beneath the column headers. This will assist in organising the information so that it can be compared and reviewed quickly.
When studying literature, you could also make use of comparison charts by organising different characters from a novel into different columns and listing attributes or other information under each character. The information from two different novels could also be organised in a similar manner in a comparison table like this.
4. To memorise vocabulary, make use of flash cards or concept cards. Flash cards are typically created using blank 5 x 7-inch index cards and can contain as much or as little information as you desire; however, they are most effective for memorising individual words or defining specific concepts. Flash cards can be used to help you remember specific words or concepts. As a result, they are particularly useful for learning foreign languages and historical events.
Make a note of one key concept on the front of each index card, and then write whatever fact(s) you’d like to associate with the key concept(s) on the back of the cards. You can cycle through the cards on your own, or you can have someone quiz you about them. Going forward and backwards on the card will ensure that you have everything completely memorised. Begin with the front and work your way down to the back. This method is particularly effective for learning foreign language vocabulary.
5. Create your own sample test to use as a learning tool. Writing a practise test can be a great way to force you to think about the material you’ll be tested on from two different perspectives: if you think about what would be good to include on the test, you’ll be thinking like the teacher, and if you can anticipate the questions, you’ll be one step ahead of the competition. Find out if you’ll be taking a multiple-choice test, a fill-in-the-blank test, or if you’ll be required to respond to essay questions. Write down questions that are similar to those that you will be tested on in order to prepare.
Make use of your study materials to assist you in composing the questions. Try to think about it in terms of what an instructor might ask you, and then write out the answers to those questions in the same manner as you would on your exam.
Several teachers will be happy to provide you with old versions of the test, if they are still available, so that you can use them as a study guide. Sample tests are frequently included in textbooks, and they are an excellent way to prepare for exams. While taking the test more than once may appear to be a source of additional stress, it can actually be a beneficial method of studying, and it may even provide insight into the types of questions that will be on the test.
You should schedule some time for each of you to make up an exam if you’re studying with another student from your class. Next, trade exams with one another and attempt to answer each other’s questions. You’ll be more confident that you haven’t missed anything important if you do it this way.
6. Study a number of different study guides. Create a study guide that incorporates a variety of formats and incorporates the main concepts and supporting information you gleaned from your study materials. You can create the guides on paper and by hand, or you can organise your information using a computer word processing programme, a spreadsheet, or a specialised study guide programme.
Comparing hand-written study guides to typed study guides, some students find that rewriting notes and organising the information into hand-written study guides forces your mind to connect more physically with the information. The act of actively reading and rewriting information can help you double-up on your studying because you’ve gone over the information twice: once when reading and again when writing. While rote recopying of notes has no effect on memory, actively reading and rewriting information can help you double-up on your studying.
For those who have difficulty reading their handwriting or simply prefer to work on a computer, you can type out your study guide and make it as visually appealing and interesting as possible, then print out copies or read through it on your mobile device.
Part 2 Choosing What to Study
1. Inquire with your teacher about the information that will be covered on the test. Start by speaking with your instructor, professor, teacher, or teaching assistant (TA) to ensure that your efforts and attention are being directed in the right direction while studying. Check to see what information was discussed, read, and covered throughout the class period for this particular test, if it wasn’t a major part of the discussions.
There are some courses that are cumulative in nature, meaning that the information and skills learned in class are applied throughout the semester, while other courses do not test over the entire course material until the final examination, instead testing over isolated topics or chapters. Remember to ask your teacher about the specific content on the upcoming exam for which you are studying, and then focus solely on learning that information.
When in doubt about what to study, place a strong emphasis on learning new information or developing new skills. While teachers may take pleasure in tossing an old question at you to test your recall, it is more likely that you will only be tested on the most recent chapters, lectures, and information rather than on previous material. The majority of teachers do not wish to deceive you.
2. Go over your textbook and other reading materials one more time. It is likely that the textbook and the associated reading assignments for your class will serve as the most important source of information for you while you are studying for the class in question. In many textbooks, the most important main concepts, skills, and ideas for you to study will already have been bolded or otherwise highlighted, making them excellent resources for study guides.
Reread the materials to identify the main points that should be included in your study guide. The majority of the time when reviewing, it is not necessary to read every word of a particular chapter. Instead, scan for the main concepts to refresh your memory, and then make a note of this information to include it in your study guide later. This, in and of itself, constitutes an excellent first step in preparing for a test.
Look for chapter reviews or study questions that will help you organise the content of your study guide. If a textbook contains a list of possible questions or comprehension checks, make a copy of the list and include it in your study guide as an appendix. Even if the teacher does not use the textbook as a basis for tests, familiarising yourself with the material in greater depth is an excellent way to prepare for the questions that may be asked.
3. Gather your class notes and “translate” them into another language. Put together a collection of all of your lecture notes from class, as well as any handouts or other supplementary materials that the instructor has provided you. If the course is focused on a particular topic or contains specific content, class notes can be just as important, if not more so, than the textbook and assigned readings
Because class notes can be messy, confusing, and otherwise difficult to review, a study guide can serve as a more comprehensive and organised version of your class notes. Leave time to go over your notes and recopy them, not word-for-word but rather the main concepts and important ideas the teacher discussed from your notes, to save time. Condense them into a manageable set for inclusion in your study guide.
In the event that you are not a natural note-taker, ask a classmate if you could review their notes, taking special care to protect them and return them on time. In the future, repay the favour by taking more detailed notes and allowing your friend to use them for review purposes.
4. Continue your search for additional definitions, clarifications, and resources. Occasionally, outside research may be beneficial, if not absolutely necessary, for specific subjects or issues. If your notes and the text are not sufficient to ensure that you fully comprehend a concept, skill, or fact, conduct additional research to clarify any important terms that you are unsure about or do not understand. Fully understanding a particular concept will ensure that you have a unique perspective and understanding of it when it comes time to take the test.
In order to prepare for a final exam, gather all of your previous tests, study guides, and handouts together in one place. These can be used as excellent study guides in a variety of situations.
5. During each chapter and lecture, keep your attention on the main concepts. Identification and understanding of the most important concepts in a particular subsection of a chapter or section may necessitate the exclusion of more specific but less important information. If the subject calls for it, some specific details such as dates, formulas, or definitions may be required, but the ability or topic itself is more important.
Remember to have the necessary formulas memorised, if necessary, when reviewing for math or science exams, but make applying those formulas the primary focus of your study time instead. Learn how to use the formula and when to use it by memorising it. Although the formula itself is important, the concept that underpins it is even more important. Also applicable are physics, chemistry, and other science courses, in which it is beneficial to develop practical examples that relate the material to real-world scenarios.
Remember to know all of the characters’ names in the book you will be tested on, but concentrate on the plot, the significance of the storey, and other themes that are present in the reading rather than specific details when you are reviewing for the English exam. If you have to refer to “the main character’s sister” in an essay test because you forgot her name, it won’t make much of a difference if the rest of your essay is well-written and thoughtful in other ways.
The majority of time spent reviewing for History is spent memorising key facts and vocabulary words. However, it is also important to understand the themes of the historical period you are studying, as well as why the facts you are memorising are important. You’ll be in even better shape if you understand the relationship between all of the names and dates.
6. Prioritize the information you’ve gathered. Make it easier to learn by organising all of the study materials into manageable sections that can be accessed without having to read the entire chapter. Make use of bold headings to distinguish between different sections of information, and consider organising things into a bulleted list to make it easier to access information quickly and effectively.
In sub-steps on your study-guide, or by grouping your study-guides into linked packets of information that you can learn from together, identify, explain, and demonstrate the relationships between ideas and concepts. If you’re studying for a history final, it might make sense to group all of the war sections together, or all of the information on various presidents together, so that you can look for common themes between the sections.
Part 3 Using Study Guides
1. Include everything you’ll need to study in one place, and then carry it around with you at all times. By making certain that your study guide contains everything you’ll need for the test, you can leave your textbook at home and only carry a handful of papers with you on test day. When it comes to cumulative exams, where you’ll be tested on a large amount of information, this is especially important to remember. The prospect of reading through all of the individual chapters may be overwhelming, whereas reading through your detailed notes will be quick and effective.
Take your study guide with you on the bus or while you’re watching television and just flip through it as needed. The more times you go over the testing information with your colleagues, the more likely it is that you will memorise it completely.
2. Before the test, make a note of the difficult material to review again. If you’re having trouble remembering a specific formula or grasping a particular concept, highlight it in a specific colour, such as blue, and then move on to the rest of the material. Begin studying with everything highlighted in blue and work your way through the material until you have it down before the test. This can be a very effective way of reminding you not only of what you need to learn, but also of specific goals that you should strive to achieve while studying.
3. Studying in more than one location is recommended. Changing the location of your study, according to some research, can aid in improving your ability to retain information and recall it later. To put it another way, if you only study in your bedroom, it may be more difficult to retain the information than if you studied a little bit in your bedroom, a little bit in the backyard, and a little bit in the lunch room during school.
4. Make a schedule for your studying. Produce your study guides as soon as possible after the test date has been set, and allow yourself enough time to study them before the test date arrives. As you approach the test, divide your time between all of the different subjects and sections of each subject that you’ll need to study to ensure that you have enough time to devote to each individual piece of information. Never try to squeeze everything into the last minute.
Get ahead of the game by setting deadlines for specific chapters or topics if you suffer from stress anxiety or panic before exams. It means that if you know that you have to finish the first two chapters this week before moving on to chapters three and four the following week, you will have a whole week to devote to that task, and you will not be able to stress about what’s in chapters three and four until later.
Separate your studies into different compartments, and only concentrate on one at a time in each compartment. Wait until you’ve finished studying for one subject and passed it before switching between five others.
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