You just heard you have a math test on Friday — the same day as your big
history test and weekly quiz on Spanish verbs. Are they crazy? How will you get all
your studying done?
Don't panic. There are some secrets to good studying. These 5 study tips can help
you take tests with confidence.
1. Start Studying in School
Studying for tests and quizzes actually starts way before you even know
you'll have a test. Good study techniques begin in the classroom as you take notes. Note-taking is a
way of remembering what you were taught or what you've read about.
Some keys to note-taking are to write down facts that a teacher mentions
or writes on the board during class. If you miss something, ask your teacher
to go over the facts with you after class.
Keep your notes organized by subject and making sure they're easy to read
and review. This may mean that you need to recopy some notes at home or during
a free period while the class is still fresh in your mind.
Unfortunately, most schools don't have classes that teach you how to take notes.
When it comes to taking good notes, it can take some experimenting to figure out what
works, so don't give up.
2. Plan Your Study Time
When you sit down to study, think about how much time you want to devote
to each topic. This will keep you from getting overwhelmed.
If it's Monday, and you've got three tests on Friday, figure out how much time
you need for studying between now and then. Then figure out how long each subject
will take. For example, a weekly Spanish verb test probably won't be as intense as
a big history test. So you won't need to set aside as much study time for the Spanish
test — and if you break it up into a short amount every night, that's even better.
Another study technique is called "chunking" — breaking large topics
down into chunks. Let's say you have a history test on World War II. Instead
of thinking about studying all of World War II (which could overwhelm even an expert),
try breaking your study sessions into 2-year chunks or studying the material by specific
Most people can concentrate well for about 45 minutes. After that
you'll probably want to take a short break. If you find yourself getting distracted
and thinking about other things as you study, pull your attention back. Remind yourself
that when your 45 minutes of studying are up, you can take a 15-minute break.
3. Study Based on the Type of Test You're Taking
Many teachers tell students ahead of time what the format of an exam will be. This
can help you tailor how you study. For example, if you know you're going to have multiple-choice
questions on World War II, you'll know to focus on studying facts and details. But
if the exam will contain essay questions, you'll want to think about which topics
are most likely to be covered. Then come up with several possible essay topics and
use your notes, books, and other reference sources to figure out how you might answer
questions on those topics.
As you study, review your notes and any special information from your textbook.
Read things over several times if you need to, and write down any phrases or thoughts
that will help you remember main ideas or concepts.
When trying to memorize dates, names, or other factual information, keep
in mind that it usually takes a number of tries to remember something correctly.
That's one reason why it's a good idea to start studying well in advance of a test.
Use special memory triggers that the teacher may have suggested or ones that you invent
In the case of math or science problems or equations, do some practice
problems. Pay special attention to anything the teacher seemed to stress
in class. (This is where good note-taking comes in handy!)
Some people find it helps to teach what they're studying aloud to an imaginary
student. Or work with a study partner and take turns teaching aloud. Another study
technique is making flashcards that summarize some of the important facts or concepts.
You can then use these to review for a test.
4. Resist the Urge to Procrastinate
It's tempting to put off studying until the last minute (also known as procrastination).
Unfortunately, by the time students get to high school there's so much going on that
there's usually no room for procrastination.
If you're a procrastinator (and who isn't sometimes?), one of the best
ways to overcome it is by staying organized. After you've written test dates
and project due dates on a calendar, it's hard to ignore them. And sitting down to
organize and plan your work really highlights how much time things take. Organization
makes it harder to procrastinate.
Sometimes people put off studying because they feel overwhelmed by the fact that
they're behind on things or they just feel really disorganized. Don't let this happen
to you. Keep your notes organized, stay on top of required readings, and follow the
other study tips mentioned earlier to stay focused and in control. Your teachers will
give you plenty of notice on important tests so you have enough time to study for
the type of exam you'll be taking.
But what if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff you have to do? Are classes
or extracurricular activities limiting your time to study properly? Ask your teachers
for help prioritizing. You may need to involve the people in charge of your activities
— such as your coach or music or drama teacher — in working out a solution.
Don't wait until the last minute to talk to your teachers, though, or you'll just
look like a procrastinator! And don't be afraid to ask for help. Teachers respect
students who are thoughtful and interested in learning and doing well.
5. Start a Study Group
Sometimes it can be useful to go over things with people who are studying for the
same test: You can make sure that your notes are correct and that you understand the
subject. Study groups are also helpful because you can work together to come up with
ways to remember concepts and then test one another.
For some people who are easily distracted, though, study groups spell disaster
because they get off the topic. When you're with a bunch of friends or classmates,
you may spend more time hanging out than actually studying. One way to ensure
quiet and focus when studying with a group is to study in the library. You'll
be forced to keep things more low-key than if you're at someone's kitchen table.
In the end, it comes down to what works best for you. If you like to study alone
and feel most confident doing it that way, that's great. If you think you'd like to
work in a group, try it out — just be aware of the drawbacks.
When you've finished studying, you should feel like you can approach the test or
quiz with confidence — not necessarily that you will get 100% of the answers
correct, but that you have a good understanding of the information.
Most of all, don't panic if you can't remember some facts the night before the
test. Even if you've spent all evening studying, the brain needs time to digest all
that information. You'll be surprised by what comes back to you after sleeping.