BY TIASHA BHUIYAN
Hi! Yes, it’s me – the girl you saw in the library with 10 coloured pens and 6 highlighters. Don’t be fooled, I’m struggling, too, but when it comes to studying, I go all out. I’ve tried all sorts of methods and have some tips that actually work. Beware, you probably won’t like them but trust me, you’ll feel better during (the fast approaching) exam season if you follow these.
1. An agenda/planner is always a good idea.
A physical agenda is great, but I usually only use mine for very busy weeks to plan out what tasks I want to accomplish and when, so I’m not overwhelmed. On a daily basis, I rely heavily on the myHomework app instead since I always have my phone on me. You can add all your courses and weekly schedule into the app, and program in reoccurring assignments. This way, I get an automatic reminder every Wednesday to complete my stats quiz. I also like to write out my tasks for the day on a dry-erase board above my desk at home so I can stay on track and use my time wisely (décor that’s functional is always a plus).
2. Master your readings
When it comes to textbook readings, it really depends on your learning style (and the prof’s teaching style, to be honest). If you’re a more of an auditory learner, reading can be more distracting than helpful. However, if you’re visual or reading/writing learner, seeing information in an organized way in a textbook can really help with understanding concepts and relationships. For subjects that are more difficult for you, in my case this is chemistry, I’d recommend reading ahead – I know, bleh. Seriously though, reading and taking notes on the chapter before going to the lecture can seriously clear things up and when you understand the material, you’ll pay more attention. However, if your prof is an ace at making PowerPoints and presenting material clearly, you can rely on the lectures but refer to the textbook for any concept you’re unsure about. I found that some professors focus on big concepts during class while lightly mentioning others, but the lightly mentioned concepts are still always on the exam so definitely skim through the textbook to make sure you get all the information.
3. Take notes!
Obvious, right? Well I found there were really 3 ways to do this: handwrite them, use OneNote / print out the slides, or type them on Word. I think handwritten is best for courses that require application such as math, physics, and chemistry. Physically writing out equations and mechanisms makes you more familiar with them and prepares you for the exam. Drawing these out on a laptop is also more difficult if you’re using Word! For courses that involve a lot of diagrams or charts, that you need to understand but not necessarily draw, I would recommend OneNote or printing out the slides. I do this for physiology so I can directly annotate on a diagram of a heart without having to redraw it. I only type out notes on Word when I’m doing supplementary textbook notes because I can split my screen and view the e-textbook at the same time. However, I found that if you do the textbook notes on Word beforehand, you can easily incorporate any additional information your prof mentions in lecture to your document. This method is definitely the most organized and helps when your professor doesn’t follow any defined order. I used this method for psychology, because the lectures were so disorganized while the online lessons had a defined order so compiling everything into a Word document made things more clear.
4. The actual studying…
So, we’re two weeks away from finals season and you’re probably thinking, “Great, now I gotta go back in time to do all these things.” Well, there’s always winter term! Just kidding, here’s some last minute advice. If you’re behind on readings, catch up only if you have to. Again, if you’re a reading learner, do it but if not just go through your lecture notes and only read concepts you don’t understand or don’t have complete notes on. If you’re lucky, you may have a wonderful friend who will lend you their notes (my roommate and I always alternated biology chapter notes during first year). When it comes to application courses aka exams with short answer, do not focus on reading notes – just practice, practice, and practice. If you don’t get a question, then look at your notes for the concept, but otherwise go full on test mode. Meanwhile, courses that rely on recall, aka multiple choice exams, require heavy reading from you. This is when the highlighters come in. After reading/highlighting your notes once, do a LOT of multiple choice questions from past exams, the textbook, Quizlet, etc. (multiple choice questions are often reused). Then read your notes again, but try recalling information this time. Some of these courses may involve short or long answer that require some thinking so you need to know how to explain big concepts and use key words to get full marks. I find that covering definitions on your notes and trying to explain each term without looking helps. Also, small study groups are great for this since it will help you see if your explanations are thorough and accurate.