Hey everyone! I hope you all had a stuffed Thankgiving. Get it? I am so lame. Anyways, this week I thought I would share with you some of my study tips and methods because, sadly, finals are only a few weeks away! Now, I am aware that not everyone (ahem, me) starts studying for finals until well, a few days before (or the night of). Whenever you study and whatever you study, here are some things I find are helpful to do to ace an exam.
Now before you roll your eyes and say “been there, done that”, hear me out. The key to using flashcards to study is not have a million to flip through when you’re already on the verge of a mental breakdown from studying for twenty hours. I found that it was quite useful to only limit yourself to making a set amount of flashcards; only make flashcards for things you know you will forget. For example, make flashcards for key facts that are pure memorization. This could be pKa values (oh, Orgo), important dates, essential amino acids, enzymes, etc… Also to further minimize the number of flashcards, group terms together. For instance if all the amino acids are non polar, then try to put as many as you can on one card. Try not to write paragraphs or even sentences on flashcards. It also helps if you spend time really categorizing the flashcards so when you nearing the end of your studying (it never really ends), you can go over only the ones you still haven’t memorized by heart. Oh, and when I am saying flashcards, I mean classic WHITE index cards (not the hard-to-see dark colored ones or online Quizlet)!
2. Rewrite notes
I am sure you have heard many professors bring up the point that writing notes with a pen (or pencil) will ingrain the information better in your head. I cannot stress to you how much this is true! Try to take time to just rewrite notes and you will see that half the material is already going in your brain as you write.
3. Colorful pens and white paper
Believe it or not when you make notes in specific colors, and you go over them multiple times, on exam day, you may be able to recall a piece of information because it was in a specific color! No joke! An important thing to remember is not to go crazy when it comes to the colors. Please don’t use ten colors. I personally like using dark colors such as black or blue to write out my main notes. Then, I have a bright red to box, underline or write VERY IMPORTANT information such as key terms or concepts. You might want to use this color to highlight those hints that your professors drop in class about what “might” be on the upcoming exams. I also find it more fun to take notes on a white paper because you have so much more room and you can write however you want! It’s like your study canvas (again, lame I know).
4. Use images or animation videos
In many of my science classes, we talk about complex processes such as protein translation or aldol condensation. When there are a million steps involved, I often find it very helpful to just Google animations or even just images to simplify things. Reading the textbook (who does?) is sometimes harder because I personally find it more difficult to grasp complex processes by mere paragraphs and paragraphs explicating each step. Instead, scan and print out key images from the book or search them online!
5. Talk out loud
This may sound crazy and may be a bit harder to do when other people are around. However, this is also another way I found really helped me get the material in my head. Hearing yourself say the words out loud can further encode the information in your long-term memory (fancy terms but so true). See if you can find a room at the library or find an empty classroom to just……talk to yourself. Become your own study buddy.
6. Put your phone away
Now, I may sound like an annoying parent, but trust me, I get distracted by my phone a lot. It is not even that I am messaging people, but come on, who can resist taking a twenty minute break every five minutes to go on Instagram or play around with the Snapchat dog filter. Turn your Wifi off (and no cellular data!) and just keep your phone out of sight. You can only touch your phone to check the time….occasionally!
7. Don’t study on your bed!
As comfy as your bed may seem, it is not good a place for studying. Try to sit upright on a desk or at a table. Also, make sure you are in a well-lit place because dim places may even make you a bit drowsy. Temperature is important too. You can’t study if you’re too cold or too hot, so try to study in an area with the right temperature. In addition, I try not to study in my pajamas. Even if I am studying in my room, I try (most of the times) to wear track pants. Be comfortable enough to study but not enough to fall asleep! It also helps if you don’t eat too many carbs or eat so much food that you go into food coma right before studying!
I hope these tips help some of you! Let me know if you have any tips of your own! Happy studying! Good luck on upcoming exams! You’ll do fantastic!