1) Don’t mindlessly review.
Attempt to understand the notes that you are reading and try to connect key concepts (instead of merely memorizing). In high school, I would often memorize facts for days on end in preparation for an exam. However, in college, this strategy will prove futile to many students. The workload and amount of classes per semester may increase from high school. Due to busy schedules and lack of extra free time to study, a better game plan will be needed to ace exams. By splitting up your notes and trying to see ‘the big picture’ of conceptual topics while preparing for your exams, a noticeable increase of comprehension will occur.
2) Prioritize classes.
Not every class will require the same effort or amount of time to succeed. So, when choosing classes, make sure you will be able to handle the workload and your schedule won’t inhibit you from succeeding in them. Talk to friends who’ve taken the same required classes for your major, or find a mentor within your department to guide you with class scheduling. If you are a science major, take a few easier courses (possibly liberal studies requirements) while taking the harder upper levels. This will open more time to focus on your tough classes that are required for your degree.
3) Keep a planner or study notebook.
By becoming more organized, you will be able to keep track of your upcoming due dates and exams. While you don’t need fancy planner stickers or pens, a simple notepad to keep track of your study goals and times will be beneficial when prioritizing the upcoming week.
4) Find a study space.
This is such an important tip for college students! Considering noise pollution, roommates, and lack of privacy that comes with college, it’s imperative to find a quiet space to study. Personally, I recommend the library or any building on your campus that may have a ‘silent floor’ where you can get work done without being distracted by people or technology. By going to this specific location to review, your brain will begin to recognize this as a ‘work only’ zone.
5) Bring snacks.
When studying for a period of time, you will most likely become either groggy or hungry. By taking energizing snacks to the library (such as fruits or nuts ), not only will you have something quick to eat, but you will also be practicing a healthier lifestyle.
6) Use study incentives.
After a long study session, take a break and reward yourself. Go out for coffee with friends or Netflix binge for the next hour or so. It’s easy to get burned out from constantly studying, and sometimes a reward after a certain period of productivity makes it easier to get through those long hours. Also apps such as Forest are awesome, incentivizing study tools. For those of you who are more visual, it allows you to see a “forest growing” as you progress throughout studying.
7) Use music playlists/soundtracks.
While it doesn’t always work for everyone, background music is useful when you’re okay with your train of thought drifting. I love using Youtube playlists (of movie soundtracks) when doing math problems or figure work. It’s very relaxing when you’re stressed!
8) Read out loud.
Sometimes hearing your own voice rationalize material or notes that you’re studying will help with understanding the ‘big picture’ of the material. University exams will often be based on linking concepts and figuring out how ideas correlate, especially in STEM related fields such as engineering and chemistry. By being able to teach yourself or ponder points longer, exam questions may not appear as intimidating.
9) Get a good night’s sleep before your exam.
Instead of cramming the night before, try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep the night before a big exam. Studies show that the brain has maximum efficiency with the proper amount of rest. Every person will vary, but usually a good starting point is about 7 hours. Leave the harder, more time consuming concepts when you begin studying, so you can relax a few days before the exam.
10) Don’t Procrastinate!
This is probably the most important tip I can put on this list! Even though it may be tempting, do not put off work until the last minute. Keep to a schedule, and make sure you are progressing throughout the week. You’ll thank your future self the night before a big project or paper is due.
All these tips are subjective; however, I feel that they are a good starting ground for those who want to improve their academic performance as well as habits over the course of a semester. For those who are starting college, good luck and happy studying!
Amy Massack recently completed her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania this past May. Her undergraduate research primarily focused on molecular cell regulation, however, (upon entering the job market) she has stepped into an Industrial Chemist role. When she's not working or learning new things on the job, you can find her either reading, knitting/beading or exploring the great outdoors.