There are really only two words you need to know in terms of preparing for tests: Write and Recite.
Far too many college students spend hours and hours “studying” for a test, without ever assessing comprehension or memory. Therefore, prior to taking a quiz or exam, you must be able to close your notes, textbook, and other materials and check your comprehension, as well as test your memory, by writing or reciting what you know.
By writing or reciting, you are taking an active approach to your learning. For test preparation specifically, you should try one or more of the following active strategies:
1. Make flashcards and then quiz yourself.
Buy index cards in different colors and sizes, or use one of several online study sites with electronic study cards.
2. Create a two-column study guide with terms on one side and definitions on the other.
Once it's ready, fold it in half and get someone to test you.
3. Organize the material visually into a mind-map.
Many people are visual learners and find it much easier to make connections and remember details when it's laid out in a visual way.
Each of the methods above asks you to think critically about class material, which increases your comprehension and retention.
Many learning models indicate that the best way to learn is to teach. So when you think you’re ready to test yourself, find someone to teach! It can be with a study group or an individual classmate. It can be with your roommate or your mom. It can be with an imaginary student in a breakout room in front a dry-erase board. The point is that by “teaching” what you know to someone else you’re giving yourself a chance to write or recite, and thus you are identifying areas that may need more clarification or attention prior to the test.
Much like an athlete on game-day, it's the regular practice and combination of skills (in this case, study skills) that result in outstanding performance on test day, so be sure to consider these additional suggestions that will influence your success as a test-taker as well.
- Manage your schedule and set aside time to study for each class on a daily basis. Studying a little bit every day is far easier and more effective than waiting until a few days prior to the test. Read about specific tips on time management.
- Actively read the class material, and by doing so create a useful resource for class discussions, writing papers, as well as studying for tests. Read more about specific active reading strategies.
- Take notes during class and do something with your notes outside of class within 24 hours. It will force you to think critically about the course content and lend itself to the test preparation strategies referenced above. Read more about note-taking.