Tests are at the top of the list of stressful things a student deals with. In most classes, they count for a majority of the grade and can be a nightmare to prepare for. Everyone has different methods of preparing, some better than others, for these tests. For those without a set method, there are sources online that suggest the best methods of studying for all types of students and even their parents. Some of these study tips stack up with how memory works while some do not.
In my opinion, exams in high school did not carry the same pressure and weight that the exams in college do. That being said, students still need to prepare for them. While looking for study tips for high school students, I came across an article from LiveAbout appropriately titled “10 High School Study Tips for Students”. As the title says, the article gives the reader 10 tips to help a high school student study. I read them and compared the tips to what we learned about memory. The first suggestion was to study alone. The author, Holly Ashworth, advises the reader to study alone because unless a group is very serious about studying, they will struggle to stay on-topic. Ashworth makes a good point with this tip. Group study sessions can be beneficial but they do tend to get off topic more than someone would while studying alone. I wouldn’t say avoid this all together though. If you can find a good study group, studying can be a lot more efficient. Group-mates can create tests for each other to take. Because of interference, new or old memories that block the ability to retrieve information, students need to study in an environment as close to the test as possible. It is hard to get closer to the test environment than a practice test made and graded by someone else. Tips 2 and 3 tie into each other. Tip 2 says to find the perfect study area and tip 3 says to get all of your materials out. It is important to eliminate all distractions while studying and that all starts with the setup. Tips 4 and 8 both deal with flashcards. Tip 4 tells the reader to make flash cards and tip 8 tells the reader to test themselves with the flash cards. The use of flashcards can be effective but must be used correctly. A lot of students make the mistake of studying flash cards in one particular order. When you do that, you are basically memorizing a list, not the meaning of what you need to learn. When using flashcards to study, make sure they are shuffled before you start using them and before every other time you go through them. Tip 5 says to eat healthy while studying. There was not much evidence as to why this was important in the article but it does make sense. From personal experience, junk food can make me sluggish and studying while sluggish just does not work. Tip 6 says to narrow your studying down to the important parts. Ashworth suggests the use of a study guide provided by the teacher. This goes back to the idea of a practice exam. You should study as much information as you can if there is not enough time, use the study guide as a practice exam. If there is not a study guide, go back to the textbook and turn section headings into questions. Tip 7 says to take a break from studying. This is applying the idea of distributed practice. The brain actually retains more when you study for a little bit and then take a break. Tip 9 says to get enough sleep. Sleeping helps the brain retain what you studied. The less sleep you get means the less you retain. Finally, tip 10 says to study all semester long. The brain will retain more information when studying is spread out. Cramming the night before does not work (MacFarlane).
In college, the tests get harder and consist of even more information. Studying becomes crucial if you want to do well. The Huffington Post put out an article on their website with 9 studying tips for college students. The first tip suggests that students should use multiple study spaces. This tip makes sense because switching environments actually does have an effect on the retrieval of information. If you study in one room the entire time and then take the test in a different room, there could be problems with retrieval because your brain is used to being in the original room. Switching up where you study eliminates that issue. The second tip says to use study and homework groups. Again, as long and the groups are on-topic, they can be successful. Tips 3 and 5 advise a few of the same things as the LiveAbout article. Tip 3 says to make flashcards and 5 says to sleep. Tip 4 goes back to the idea of studying in a situation as similar as possible to the test. They advise readers to make tests for themselves to take. Taking practice tests will prepare the mind for taking an actual test better than any other method. Tip 6 says not to categorize yourself. For example, a student will say they are a visual learner and then only use study habits that work for visual learners. If you box yourself in like that, you could be missing out on other strategies that could really work for you. Tip 7 says go to class. This is a pretty obvious one. Although there are textbooks for most classes, professors could present and explain the information in a way that is easier to process. You will miss out on this opportunity if you do not go to class. Tip 8 says to switch between subjects. Mixing up the order of the things you study is a good habit to get into. Tests questions are not in a specific order so mixing up the order of what you study gets the brain ready to switch from section to section like it has to on a test. Tip 9 says to manage your time. It is important to spread out your studying and not cram (MacFarlane).
As we get older, some of us will become parents and the study habits of our kids might be an issue. An article from usnews.com written by Kelsey Sheehy says that teens are sacrificing sleep in order to study and gives three tips to help them avoid that. The first tip says to set a schedule and make studying a part of every day instead of cramming. Spreading out the studying will be better for memory than cramming and it will allow the student to get a better night’s sleep before the test. The second tip is to get rid of distractions. This will allow the student to just focus on the material. The final tip is to take breaks. Again, breaking up studying is better for memory than covering all of the information in one session (MacFarlane).
MacFarlane, Ian. “PSY 105: Introduction to Psychology.” Elizabethtown College. Psychology Department, Elizabethtown College, 2017.