Does the thought of your next test have your stomach in knots? If you’re unprepared, the thought of taking a test can certainly be overwhelming—especially if you put off cramming until the night before!
The study habits you practice now will help you when you get to college and your career. These eight proven prep strategies will help you be prepared and stay calm when it comes to taking exams.
1. Pay attention
Doing well on tests starts with paying attention in class. It’s hard to retain information when your mind is wandering, so start each lesson with the intention of actively participating. Listen intently to your instructors, take notes, and be engaged in class activities or discussions. Connect with the information when you are first learning it, and studying will be that much easier!
2. Keep a consistent study schedule
Reviewing information right before a test may help you get “in the zone,” but to truly know the information, you need to review throughout the semester. Create a study schedule for yourself, and stick to it. One helpful way to do this is to use a planner to build your routine. Your study sessions will be more productive, and you’ll also be learning to manage your time.
3. Choose the right study environment
Staying focused is one of the most important parts of studying. To make sure you’re in study mode, find a study space that works best for you. This means choosing a quiet place and minimizing distractions—yes, that means putting away your phone!
For some, the ideal study environment is alone. Others may work bets in a study group. Choose whichever method works best for you. Just remember: if you join a study group, be sure to focus more on the test material and less on chatting!
4. Find the right review technique
There are many techniques that can help you retain information for tests. Try a few different strategies, and use the ones that work best for you. Here are some ideas for reviewing test material:
Make flashcards from your notes and reading material. Quiz yourself, or ask a friend.
Review past papers and quizzes on the test topic. Note where you made the most mistakes, and pay special attention to those areas while studying.
Explain the topic to someone else. If you can clearly and accurately describe a topic or concept, you know you’re on the right track!
5. Ask for help
If you find yourself confused or frustrated while prepping for a test, that’s perfectly fine! It’s okay to ask for help. Talk to your teacher about the parts you don’t understand, or ask another student in your class.
6. Take a break
Your brain can only absorb so much knowledge at once. Walking away from studying for a bit can actually help you retain information. For every hour you spend studying, take fifteen minutes to do something mindless—go for a walk, watch a funny video, or have a brain-boosting snack. Keep in mind: if you’re feeling sluggish or tired, caffeine and energy drinks won’t help! They may wake you up at first, but you’ll crash later.
7. Get enough sleep
When you’re busy trying to study for a test, it can be easy to forget that sleep is important, too! Researchers at UCLA found that regardless of how much a student generally studies each day, if that student sacrifices sleep time in order to study more than usual, he or she is likely to have more academic problems, not less, on the following day. The bottom line is, don’t pull an all-night cramming session—it will do more harm than good!
8. Think positive
Okay, you’ve prepared as much as you can; you’ve used good study habits, reviewed the information, and gotten enough sleep. Now, all that’s left to do is to take the test! Remember to stay positive as you go into the exam. Think about how much work you’ve done to prepare, picture yourself doing well, and take a deep breath. A little bit of nervousness before a test is natural, but remember—you’ve got this!