Keep calm and study on

This story was originally published in the Nov. 10 issue of Fourth Estate.

Written by Rachel Shubin

Understanding how to study for exams does not come naturally. It is something you learn from years of schooling and hard work. Of course, there are a few people who manage to skate by and end up in college with no idea how to study. That was me.

It took me until the second semester of freshman year to learn how to truly study. I failed my first art history exam that I had studied for for only an hour. I thought I knew the buildings, years and terms efficiently – but as the blank test waiting to be filled in with answers stared back at me, I realized how poor quality the studying was that I had just done.

It took a lot of hard work between taking notes during class, asking teachers for help and spending hours upon hours studying to go from an F to a B on my second art history exam. And ultimately I ended up with an A on the last exam because by the end of the semester, I figured out the best way to study for exams.

I want to share with the ways I have improved my study skills. So here are some tips of what I have learned while studying for exams during my college career so far:

  1. For classes that meet a total of two hours and thirty minutes a week, you should spend at least that amount of time studying for the tests given in that class. And then study double the amount of class time, five hours, for midterms or finals.
  2. Take study breaks – don’t try to cram in over two hours of solid study time at once. Take short breaks and try to relax and not stress about what to study next. Watch a music video, scroll through social media, give your mind a break
  3. Do not pull all-nighters. I repeat, do not pull all-nighters. You will not feel well when you go to take the test and therefore you might not do well. You will be so tired that you won’t be able to think straight or remember all that you have studied. Study in chunks over a couple of days and get a good night’s sleep. You would think that this tip is common sense, but so many people don’t follow it.
  4. If your teacher offers a class review, do not skip it! I cannot tell you how many people take these sessions for granted and they are usually pretty helpful. Sometimes teachers even give you hints during those reviews that will be helpful for the exam. Teachers take notice as to who cares and who does not. Attending these reviews might actually gain you some points in the long run, too!
  5. If your teacher offers office hours for review before an exam or to look over an exam, snatch that opportunity up. So many students do not go to these one-on-one sessions and they can be so helpful. Professors are happy to help students who want to help themselves. It is better to have your teacher know your name rather than just be another face in their class. Get on a personal student-professor level with your professor- the more they know get to know you, the more they will want to help you.

Photo credit: Amy Rose