Preview the Material
Before you plunge into learning all of the nitty gritty details, skim through your notes to get a general overview of the material you’ll be studying. This will give you some idea of how to study for the test in the best possible way, and it will also help you to organize the material in your mind. For example, if you skim through your notes, you might realize that the test will be on cell structure, mitosis, and meiosis, and you’ll have some idea about how the three are connected. Alternatively, you may realize that the ten seemingly unrelated events that your history test will be on were actually a string of events that were all caused by each other. These realizations can help you understand how the different parts of the material are interconnected, which can help you understand and remember them.
Use Outlines and Graphic Organizers
Another way to make sure that you understand how all of the pieces of material are interconnected is by using an outline or a graphic organizer to make the material more visual. For example, you might make a web connecting the main ideas of cell structure, mitosis, and meiosis. Alternatively, you might create a timeline or a cause-effect chart with the events on your history test. Especially if you are a visual learner, these study strategies will help you understand how all of the material is related, and you may find yourself visualizing your outline or graphic organizer on test day while trying to remember a difficult answer!
Try Out Mnemonics
Mnemonics, or memory boosters, are always a good way to memorize lists of information. There are some famous mnemonics, such as “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” to remember the order of the planets (although these days, it’s probably been curtailed to “Just Served Us Noodles”) or “Kings Play Cards on Fat Green Stools” for the levels of taxonomy. But don’t hold back from making up some of your own as well! For example, if you’re trying to memorize the metric units (kilometer, hectometer, decameter, meter, decimeter, centimeter, millimeter), you might make up a mnemonic like “Kids Have Dreams, Mom, Don’t Crush Mine!”
Take Notes on Your Notes
Some people learn a lot from writing down information over and over again. In fact, you may have some friends who swear by writing their notes over and over again as the perfect way to study for a test. In truth, that’s probably a waste of time. Try taking notes on your notes, or writing down the most important ideas in your notes in shorthand. After each section of notes, try summarizing the section in your own words without looking back at the original notes. When you’ve done that for all of the material, go back and try summarizing your summaries again. This will help you figure out the most important ideas that will be on the test, and will help you to see the bigger picture.
This post is part of the series: Study Tips and Strategies
Not sure how to improve your study habits? Searching for study strategies that will work for you? This series includes study tips and strategies that can work for students from middle school through college and beyond.