We all want to start off this quarter with good grades and give ourselves some "cushion" in our grades early on. As a forever-4.0 student, I've learned through experience how to study in a way that helps me ace tests, and I hope it works out for you too! Everyone learns differently, but there are a few tips and tricks that I've learned to be true in studying the material for class and taking your exams like a boss.
1. Take notes in class.
This might seem like something you already know, but it isn't as obvious as it seems. Writing on paper is a really good way to remember the material, and it can also help your understanding to write notes in your own words. It's hard sometimes to keep up with the lecture as well as keep notes, so when possible, I print out the slides for the lecture beforehand and take notes on those, or try to pay attention as best I can while writing down key points. I have known some other students to record lectures and play back any part that they may have missed later on.
Taking notes in class isn't only a great way to remember the information, but also a great source to come back to when studying for exams. Often I find when I'm studying that I don't fully understand a term or concept, and it's nice to be able to refer to class notes for clarification.
2. Do your homework.
This tip may also seem a bit self-explanatory. Do your homework, get good grades, right? There's more to it than that. It's more about what we take away from the homework that is important to our exam grades. Homework really sucks, but the more you solidly understand before studying for the exam, the better! Take breaks when doing homework to keep your head from exploding. Homework usually makes good practice, even though we've all had a teacher who just gave busy-work for homework.
Homework is also great for studying before tests. I've found that particularly in math and other subjects where the coursework is cumulative, holding on to completed homework is very helpful.
3. Take notes on the material.
When there is an assigned reading for a course, it's usually very tempting for a college student with a busy schedule to skim through the reading, just to get through it before the next class. Taking notes on key points doesn't take long to do, and you'll remember the basic outline of the reading for understanding at the very least.
If there is an assignment involved based on the assigned reading, I usually make more of a point to take notes on any parts of the reading relevant to my assignment, as well. Taking notes on the material in the same notebook or binder as the notes from class will make it very easy to study the information before the exam, granted that all of the notes are labeled and dated.
4. Make flashcards.
With organized, labeled notes for the course, it should be relatively easy to make note cards for the exam. This is the easiest, yet most time-consuming task besides doing the actual reading, but it's worth the results. Any terms you know beyond a doubt, or "common sense" terms don't need to be written on flash cards. That's why it's a good thing to understand the material before you start studying.
Flashcards work exceedingly well if you give yourself time to create them, as well as time to study them. It's convenient to either get flashcards with holes or hole-punch them, and keep them on a binder ring for organization. Putting a term or question on one side and a definition or answer on the other is usually how I format my cards. I usually word them so they can be flipped over and gone through the other direction. When studying from flashcards, it's important to try to generate the answer yourself without looking at the back until you have answered it.
5. Be curious.
Not all of your questions will be answered in every class, and there's always some things the professor just won't have time to teach. Khan Academy is one of the many great resources out there that can help you fill in the blanks. Khan Academy has materials on many different subjects for those who want to know more about a topic. Whether it's basic math you need a refresher on, or understanding neurons, Khan Academy can help out tremendously. Being curious and wanting to know more about a topic will help your understanding in many ways. The internet is an oracle of information, but it's important that we are weary of which information is accurate. Don't rely on one source for information, but find different ways that information is explained to fully understand.
6. Clarify when you can.
There are scenarios that it doesn't feel like we can ask questions, but do it when you can! Asking questions in class is the fastest way to clarify something and there's probably other students in the room wanting to ask the same thing. Participate in class and asking questions will surely help you understand the material, as well as understand the expectations. Both of these benefits will help you work towards the larger goal of acing your exam, and finally, the class!
7. Form a study group.
Sorry, introverts! Forming a study group is a surefire way to do well on your exams. Don't get me wrong, you need to study on your own as well. But studying in a group can fill in all the gaps before an exam! Plus, if you're sick for a day, it's nice to have someone in class who you can ask for notes. Making connections in the beginning of the quarter is always a good way to start a study group because everyone else is in the same position as you!
If you don't want to start your own group, there's probably already a group in existence that would love to see your smiling face for study sessions! Look around and be brave by asking any groups that sit together. Canvas messaging is also a great way to connect with your classmates at WWU for study group information.
8. Use the Tutoring Center.
The Tutoring Center rocks, especially when it comes to core classes. Even if you're sitting with someone in a different math class, they're asking the same questions because they're working on the same material. I love how there are tables set up based on the course. The Tutoring Center is a great place to meet people for future study sessions as well, because obviously you both are looking to do well on your exams!
9. Go to office hours.
It might be something you just don't really want to do, but your professor's office hours are an important resource. If your peers, the Internet, and the Tutoring Center fail you, it might be time to go to office hours for help. There's nothing wrong with needing help, or just checking in with your instructor through the quarter, staying on top of your work, and caring about the class is the best way to get on their good side (as well as maybe a letter of recommendation in the future).
10. Show up!
This may also seem pretty simple, but it's more than just physically showing up. Show up physically, but also mentally. Show up to class ready to learn even though to sun is coming out and you'd rather be anywhere else. Show up for class with the intention of paying attention and taking notes, and nothing will get in your way when it comes to acing your next big exam! If your class is early, do yourself a favor and grab some coffee beforehand to help you pay attention.
Some of my tips are common knowledge and some things I do out of preference because of the success I've had. Everyone is different, and some particular tips may not be for everyone. Trying different ways to learn is what makes you the best student that you can be. Good luck this quarter, and work hard to ace your exams!