There are right and wrong ways to study. I’m sure you’ve thought of (or even tried) pulling an all-nighter to cram everything you could possibly remember the night before a test.
There are many reasons why that’s not a good idea. Instead of studying the wrong way and then hoping for the best, why not do the right thing from the very start?
Here are 7 tips you should implement when studying for a test. If you’re ready to ace your next test, keep reading!
Have a good study space
Having a comfortable workspace is extremely important. It will help you stay focused while being comfy and maximize efficiency as well as productivity.
If you study at a library or café, choose a quiet corner where you can focus. If you study at home and have your own room/study, make sure your desk is set up properly to maximize productivity.
Depending on your organization style, your desk can look very different from someone else’s. But it’s a good idea to keep it organized and clean– this will not only physically declutter the area, but it will also help your mind stay clear and organized, ready to maximize your study.
Tuck all the distracting elements away somewhere and only leave the necessities at your desk. This means none of the following:
- Video games
- Social media
Lastly, make sure your study space is well-lit and comfortable. Having a good lamp will lessen the stress on your eyes and help you study comfortably.
This popular desk lamp is the one I use, and I’m super glad I chose it. It has 3 brightness levels – this feature is much used when I’m studying at night. It’s also fully adjustable, so I don’t have to change the setup of my desk to adapt to the light source.
Once your study space/desk is all set up, you’re ready to get studying.
Know what to focus on
Obviously, you should know what your test is going to be about. Whether it’s a chapter, a unit, or an entire semester’s worth of knowledge, know what the test is on.
But other than the obvious, here is another important reminder: know what knowledge points/concept you need the most work on.
Rather than spending hours and hours going over things you’ve already mastered, take the time to review and solidify the information you struggle with.
I get it, we all like doing the easy stuff. But in order to improve, you must take the more difficult steps and strengthen your weaknesses.
So before your test, analyze your study guide or the unit outline (or just your notes if you don’t have either). Decide which concepts you’re confident in and which you’re struggling in. Then focus on the latter and practice, practice, practice!
Knowing your weak points will be important for the next couple of points, too, so make sure you’ve got it down!
Review past exams
Reviewing past exams is one of my favorite (and most effective) ways to study for a test. This is especially helpful if your teacher creates their own tests or gets them all from 1 source.
The more tests you take, the more familiar you will be with the style of questions your teacher puts. The more familiar you are, the more likely you’ll be able to readily maneuver through the odd wording or similar answer choices on the next assessment.
Reviewing past exams is also a great opportunity to ask your teacher questions. For example, if you had a question on why the answer was A and not B, ask your question and explain your thinking. In some cases, the teacher simply made a mistake (and you can get a point back!). In other cases, you may have misunderstood the question or misremembered information.
Reviewing what you did wrong on past tests will not only help you remember content, but it will also help you identify your weaknesses and give you an idea of what to further study.
I had many aha moments when reviewing past tests during school, so why not try it out and see if it helps you, too?
YOU’LL LOVE THIS POST: 7 Terrible Study Habits To Quit Immediately
Study with friends
I mentioned this in my other post, 10 Study Tips For High Schoolers, but I’m reiterating this once more. Study groups are super helpful.
Especially if you take AP classes in high school, discussions are inevitable and necessary. In almost all my AP classes in high school, study groups were super important in smoothing out the bumps and filling in the holes.
Find a couple of friends (I suggest anywhere from 2-9) and form a study group. Meet occasionally (perhaps even regularly if needed), put all your brains together, and study.
You should definitely bring questions to your study sessions, because some may have the same questions while others may have the answers.
You should also plan ahead and know what you’re going to focus on during your study session. While most of it might turn out to be a question-and-answer type of discussion, there should still be a structure you follow to ensure everything is covered.
If your study group is productive and (relatively) studious, you will walk away with these things:
- Multiple lightbulb moments.
- Corrected misconceptions.
- New information/ideas.
- More confidence than before.
So grab a couple of friends and get grinding!
Prepare for the worst
There are multiple aspects of the worst. Three of the most common occurrences are:
- You get questions on the concept you don’t know anything about.
- You run out of time before finishing the entire test.
- You are so stressed that your mind blanks.
Of course, there are ways to prevent these problems beforehand. Let’s start with the first possibility: you are tested on the 1 thing you don’t know anything about.
If you’ve been following this post, you should have identified your weaknesses already. These weaknesses– if not strengthened– will bring down your grade in this form. So to prevent that from happening, practice until you are confident!
The next possibility is running out of time before you finish the entire test. A good sense of time is a little hard to master. If you find yourself struggling with this, take timed practice tests or questions and see where you stand, then keep practicing to correct it.
It’s always a good idea to keep the following tricks in mind:
- Come back to a question later if you find yourself “stuck”.
- Keep an eye on the clock and know when you’re halfway through the time.
- Save some time to check your answers/answer skipped ones.
- Don’t sacrifice easy points because of 1 hard question.
The last possible worst scenario is that you become so stressed during the test that your mind blanks completely. To prevent this, practice stress-relief tactics before and during the test!
My favorite way to relieve stress quickly is through the 4-7-8 breathing pattern. Simply breathe in for 4 counts, hold it for 7, and breathe out for 8 counts. I have a post all about quick and effective stress relief – go check it out!
Especially if your assessment is an official one (such as an AP test, the SAT, or finals), it’s easy to become super tense and underperform when the test comes around.
Now, if you do well under pressure, kudos to you!
But if you’re like me, working under pressure is just stressful. If you don’t prepare yourself fully before the test, you won’t perform as well as you hope during the test.
So to fully maximize your chance of succeeding on your test, simulate the test-day environment. Here’s what you should do:
- Isolate yourself in a quiet area (preferably at your desk).
- Turn off all notifications on your phone.
- Get all your practice test materials ready.
- Time yourself (phone is ok as long as notifications are off).
- Take breaks as you would during the actual test.
Remember to analyze your errors after you take the practice test! It’s important to know what you did wrong and learn from it.
Repeat this process as many times as you need to; better safe than sorry!
Seriously, don’t do it. If you’re trying to organize your desk, analyze your weaknesses, review past exams, get a study group, and simulate the real test 1 day before you take your test… you might as well just get a good night’s sleep.
It’s always a better idea to do a little bit of studying each day rather than cramming it all into your brain in 1 night. Studies have shown how the first method will help the information stick in your brain better.
And seriously, procrastination just makes the entire studying process more stressful. Do yourself a favor and start studying as soon as possible!
I suggest following this schedule:
As soon as the test date is revealed: plan a schedule.
- 2 weeks before the test: 15 minutes of studying every 2 days. Study session!
- 1 week before the test: 15 minutes of studying every day. Study session!
- 3 days before the test: 20 minutes of studying every day and prepare for the worst.
Of course, if your test is large-scale, you should probably start studying for it months in advance. Remember to stay consistent and targeted, and you’ll be able to maximize your success.
I hope you found this post helpful and that you do great on your next test! Don’t let 1 setback put you down; stay persistent and study the right way, and you’ll find success for sure!
If you’re looking for more studying tips, check out these posts!