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How to study effectively in college? Studying tips for semester coursework and exams

Updated on August 26, 2012
Getting through one semester after another requires a simple yet effective study plan. Read on and take tips as you chart out your own pathway to succeeding at college.
Getting through one semester after another requires a simple yet effective study plan. Read on and take tips as you chart out your own pathway to succeeding at college. | Source

From tips on how to remember stuff quickly and easily to tips on how to make giving exams a whole lot easier - This post is a practical guide on how to study effectively in college.

Studying effectively: Making learning easier

1) Use highlighters to remember important points

The easiest way to remember important points and headings from any chapter of any book is to highlight them with a felt-tip pen aka a highlighter. Orange, pink, yellow and other fluorescent colors make text stand out.

There are two benefits of using highlighters while reading. First one is that highlighting text makes it easier to be picked up while doing last minute revisions just before exams. Additionally, when a point is highlighted, it in some ways creates a visual memory. This makes remembering headings and points much easier.

2) Remember tags/keywords for each topic

Comparison of this practical tip to study effectively can be drawn to how a blog post is labeled with certain phrases – It is all about tags and keywords. While reading books on theory intensive subjects it can be tough remembering a paragraph from just a few pages back. To make it easier to remember stuff, try to associate every topic with a couple of keywords.

This association of keywords and tags with each topic will make remembering easy simply because you only need to dig into your memory for those couple of keywords as opposed to large sentences and paragraphs.

3) Use sticky notes for references and reminders

Sticky notes can be placed all over your textbooks and journals as reference or even reminders. A small sticky note can be something as simple as 'Read this along with pg 52' or something as intricate as 'Clarify and tie this theory back to the solution of problem 3 in unit 6'.

The best part about using sticky notes is that they can be removed so they leave your textbooks free of your scribbling. Not only will this help you in an open book exam, but you will also get more money if you decide to sell your text books after finishing a semester.

4) Make a practical study timetable and stick to it

Making a schedule to study effectively before exam is a tip that has been used obsessively by teachers, professors and academic counselors over and over again, making it seem dull and redundant.

The trick to make this tip successful is to make a practical schedule. It is impractical to ask anyone to study like a robot. So from a real world and practical perspective, it is best to make a timetable that takes into consideration a lot of other things.

While making a study timetable it is easy to get carried away and making the mistake of being overambitious. Instead of falling into this trap, make an achievable timetable considering the breaks you are going to take, the time you are going to spend chatting on the phone, the time you are going to spend watching TV and other margins for other distractions.

5) Write your own notes during lectures

It is easy to fall into the trap of simply photocopying someone else's detailed notes from lectures and tutorials, or relying on the tutor's notes from your college's online learning portal. However you should remember that there is an obvious advantage of taking down your own notes during lectures.

Remembering and recalling things you have written yourself can be easier. Studying effectively for exams is all about being able to recall the right things at the right time. Your own hand written notes may be just the photographic memory that you need to ace your answer sheets.

6) Absorb and understand the logic: Don't cram and mug

Do you think that reading the same thing over and over again will help you remember it easily? You could be wasting your time and energy. Whether it is Freud's theory about sexuality, Greek literature, a case study on the breakup of the Soviet Union, a complicated mathematical theorem or a chemical equation – The easiest way to remember more with the least effort is to understand the concept and logic behind the text.

As you try to rip apart the logic beneath the black and white, you will be able to absorb information in the true sense of learning. Cramming, rote learning, mugging or swotting, call it what you want, they are just temporary fixes which may let you down on the day of an exam.

7) Pin up notes and diagrams where you can see them all the time

Pinning up notes, charts, diagrams and tables on your study desk or at places where you can see them every day is an effective passive learning technique. Your attention will inadvertently be diverted to the things that you have put up and your mind may subconsciously form an easy to remember, photographic memory.

For example, if you can't remember a complicated chemical equation, print it out on large fonts and pin the page just above your study desk. As the days go by, you will probably recollect the equation even if someone asked you in the middle of the night.

8) Practice by taking time bound tests

Writing a lengthy answer, solving multiple choice questions or being drenched in extensive research – neither of these hold any value unless they are time bound. You need to be looking at your watch while penning down your answers because the last thing you want is to know all the answers in your exams but fall short of time.

Take practice tests and see how you fare against the clock. Knowing everything is one thing. But being able to replicate your memory onto an answer sheet or breezing through multiple choice questions in a fixed amount of time is a totally different ball game.

9) Sort out your doubts and questions immediately

Doubts and questions can range from not understanding a complicated theory to an entire chapter. The key to solving doubts quickly and effectively is to attack them as and when they arise. A common mistake made by even the best of us is to procrastinate and leave them for last minute.

Eventually as the semester goes by, doubts can snowball into an unmanageable list of questions which can mean the difference between passing and failing a test. Stop procrastinating and take a professor's or a tutor's appointment as soon as you have a question that you just can't find the answer to.

10) Get involved in a study group

If you haven't already met like minded people in your lectures and tutorials, the easiest way to hop into a study group is to log into your college's online learning portal and contacting active members. Being involved in groups will allow you to bounce off queries, keep up with everyone else in class and get support whenever you need.

Students in one group can quiz each other, tutor each other, support each other emotionally and most important of all, compete with each other.

But before you join a group, make sure you pick the right study partners with academic levels similar, or higher than yours. Group study may be futile if the people you hang out with have priorities other than studying.

11) Take extra tutorials for your weak subjects

The age old motto of practice makes perfect couldn't hold more water than when it comes to studying effectively. If you find yourself struggling to cope up with lectures and tutorials for a particular subject, taking extra tutorials might be the way to go.

Look for adverts on your college campus. There will always be some senior or a scholar willing to give lessons for an hourly price. But before you pick one, make sure that you do a few reference checks. Talk to a few students who have gone to him/her and ask how their experience was.

12) Strike a personal rapport with professors and tutors

There are quite a few passive advantages of striking a personal rapport with your professors and tutors. Your tutor may inadvertently give you a few extra tips and notes during an intellectually driven discussion. A great rapport with a professor can even give insights into what he/she thinks is right and wrong when it comes to answers. A strong professional bond with your professor may be useful to tap his/her contacts for job placements after you graduate.

The whole point of interacting with the people who teach you is to squeeze every drop of learning that you possibly can. All this will help you better understand what it takes to ace one semester after another.

Exams are much more than a test of your knowledge because how well you do, depends on how well you have prepared.
Exams are much more than a test of your knowledge because how well you do, depends on how well you have prepared. | Source

Exam tips: Things to do when exams are round the corner

1) Take time out to exercise

While exercising and going to the gym may not be on the list of 'things to do' just before exams, it is a great way to de-stress. After you spend those hours studying, your muscles deserve a bit of a workout.

Simple floor exercises or basic core workouts are enough to get the blood pumping. Even a quick 10 minute session in the gym will help you feel rejuvenated after a day full of books, journals and more.

2) Sleep well to do better in your tests

Are you in the habit of keeping awake all night on the day before your exams to memorize as much as you can? If you are, your attempts may work against you because a good night's sleep is critical if you want to be fresh, alert and active while jotting down your answers.

Lack of sleep can make you forgetful which means you risk the chance of ruining all over the hard work you have done before the exams. Get into the habit of waking up early and go to bed at a reasonable time to give your body the rest it needs.

3) Take a break: Go out and get some fresh air in-between study sessions

Hours of studying can keep you locked up within the confines of your dorm room or between the 4 walls of your college library. Make sure you take a break and get some fresh air every few hours.

Whether it is a walk in the park outside your dorm or a short drive on your favorite route – Get some fresh air to feel rejuvenated and energized.

4) Eat healthy: Maintain a good diet during the days leading up to your exams

Diet plays a passive, but very important role in your well being and your state of mind. From vitamins to proteins to carbs to all the other essentials - Include all the healthy essentials in your daily intake.

To stay active, keep yourself hydrated at all times with water, juices and other healthy drinks.

5) Prepare your clothes and things that you need to carry to the exam on the night before

If you leave all these things for last minute, you may find yourself panicking just before your exams. It is a great idea to organize your clothes, pens, calculator, books and every other thing you are going to need while giving the exam before you go to sleep on the night before. Hassle and unnecessary panic before the exams can be disastrous.


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    • catalinafr profile image


      7 years ago

      About 8-10 mentioned studying effectively tips I use every year (at the beginning of the year, than it fades away;)

      Exam tips are great! Voted up


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