The process of studying is different for everyone.
Some college students are able to pick things up just by taking notes during class. Others need to go over the material for hours and cram before a big test.
No matter which way you study, there are always ways you can improve. Below, we’ve compiled four studying tricks that can help you make the most of your time and retain information.
Give them a try and see what works for you, which is a tip in itself—find out which study methods are most effective for you and apply them to whatever course you’re tackling.
Mnemonics are a good way to help you memorize things.
Essentially, mnemonics are phrases that represent something you’re trying to remember. They can take many forms, from familiar songs or sayings to rhymes you made up yourself.
Mnemonics are easier to understand by looking at a few examples.
If you want to recall the countries in Central America, think of this phrase: Gosh But Eating Hot Nachos Causes Pain.
The first letter of each word corresponds to the nations: Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
The Learning Center Exchange has a few examples, as well:
- Henry’s Law: The solubility of a gas increases with pressure. Mnemonic: To remember good old Hank, remember the bubbles in the shaken Coke you drank.
- For biology, the categories in the classification of animal life are Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species and Variety. Mnemonic: Kings Play Cards On Fairly Good Soft Velvet.
2. Fluid Notes
Instead of writing down your notes in a linear fashion, you can use lines, arrows and different directions to get your thoughts in order.
That order may look a bit different, but fluid note taking can help you make connections between ideas and help you digest the material in a way that makes sense for you.
Later, when you study your notes, you’ll be able to break down the information in a manner that jibes with your thought process.
Related: 8 Writing Tips for College Students
And if you’re more of a technical person and prefer taking notes on a tablet, there are applications available that allow you to make fluid notes electronically. Check out Fluid, Notability or Notes Plus.
If you’re a creative type or a visual learner, building a picture in your mind of what you’re trying to learn could be helpful.
Oxford Learning suggests that students craft a “memory place,” a virtual space in which you imagine moving around and placing pieces of information. Then, when you try to remember something, you go to the spot where you left it in your mental space.
Visualization can be a good technique if you have difficulty memorizing material in large lists. Instead, put the pieces of information in their imaginary places and get the facts or concepts where you left them.
You can put your own twist on visualizing your lessons and figure out a process that works for you.
4. Test Yourself
You should know beforehand what type of test you’ll be taking—multiple choice or lab work or essay, for example.
Try to imagine what kinds of questions will be on the exam and devise a test of your own making. Replicate the conditions you’ll see in the classroom—give yourself the allotted time and challenge yourself to complete the test as you would in class.
Just the act of creating a mock test can help you remember the material, and you’ll quickly discover areas you need to focus on more.
You could also work with a friend to come up with questions and review your answers.
Hopefully, these tips will help you prepare for your next big exam. If you have ideas that work for you, tell us about them in the comment section below.