1. Form a Plan
Decide how much time you want to spend studying before you begin a study session and sketch out some goals you have for that time period. Be realistic with these goals. Most days I write way too much down, and set myself up for failure- don't do this. If you have a great planner you can write your notes in that.
2. Eliminate Distractions
If you thrive on constant distractions, then set a timer or know that if you devote 25-30 minutes of "good focused studying" then you can let yourself check Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, News whatever. If you have a LOT to do, I would only let myself get distracted every hour not every 30 minutes. Make sure you limit yourself with the distractions too - decide if it will be 10 minutes every 30 minutes or 15 minutes every hour being distracted.
(Keep in mind the more you focus the more free time you will have later!)
Focused studying now saves you time in the end!
3. Location, Location, Location
Do not study in a place where your friends will walk by and you'll get distracted. You can talk to them after you put in your focused studying with that extra time you'll save by doing it right the first time. I prefer silence and keep my noise canceling headphones with me at all times. If I'm at school I find a study room or go to the library, otherwise I study in my office. I like to study in silence because that's how I take my exams - and so why not be used to focusing like that.
Now that we've set the environment. Here's my takes how to study and save the most time, and I realize that everyone learns differently.
Step 1: Review the Material
This usually means reading through the material and really focusing. For me this is the most painful part, but it has to be done. Highlighting what you think is important can help. I like to highlight my notes the 2nd time I read them because I may have "learned" something during my first read-through and I only highlight things that I don't know so I can reference them later.
Step 2: Flashcards
Take that highlighted material and make flashcards. Do this quickly, don't waste time creating them - yes, you learn a little by creating them but I've read studies that show that actually using the flashcards is way more beneficial. My advice is use Quizlet (even if it is incredibly boring to study flashcards on a computer/ipad/iphone). If you use Quizlet you can then blast through 100 flashcards in no time and star the ones you don't know. If you like pictures to learn, put pictures on them.
Are flashcards necessary? In my opinion to save the most time and learn the quickest - yes they are. They are also boring when you make hundreds to do. But if you set aside and hour and just do them, you'll be so happy you did. Studies have shown that "spaced repetition" - doing the flashcards every few days or 2x a day or whatever - significantly help you learn and form long term memories. They've also shown that answering questions (and maybe getting it wrong) improves memory formation too because you also have to "think" to answer the flashcard.
Step 3: Now What?
Mix it up so you don't get bored:
- Skim your material again and highlight in a different darker color what you don't know after reviewing your flashcards) or skim just to skim
- Run through the flashcards daily
- Watch a youtube video about a concept you don't understand - type the concept in youtube so many people have made great videos and then increase the speed of them talking to 1.5 or 2.0 to save time! (I've probably watched this video so many times throughout college and med school - love it. )
- Take a look at the things you really don't understand or don't have memorized and rewrite them in bright colors. Is it some seemingly useless list that your teacher pointed out but you can't ever remember it? Take time to write it out. Don't do your entire notes or you will waste time - trust me I learned the hard way.
- Talk out loud. I used to talk to myself in my office and pretend I was teaching the material. Sometimes I explain the info to Jake while he watches TV. Recalling the information off the top of your head and saying it out loud is a great way to learn.
Hope these tips can help you prepare for your next exam!
Comment below on your favorite ways to study!