How to Study for Exams

February 9, 2018
5 tips to study more effectively and efficiently for exams

Midterm season at Georgetown signals the beginning of the end... finals (it doesn't make any sense, I know). This week, I was unlucky enough to have three finals in 24 hours. Fortunately, I learned a lot from midterm season last semester that made those 24 hours bearable, so today I'm sharing 5 tips to acing your exams!

1. Start Early

Last semester, I usually didn't start thinking about studying until the professor mentioned the exam, so about a week before. Constantly studying means you don't have to cram the days leading up to the exam and you get more value for the time you put in. For accounting and statistics, I review my notes and the powerpoint slides before the next class to make sure I genuinely understand the content. It helps so much more than just reading the textbook and listening to the lecture because I'm not making myself think I understand and moving on. It feels like it takes more time on a daily basis, but it only eliminates 15-30 minutes from my day and saves 2-3 times as much time the night before.

2. Review the Homework

In almost all of my classes, I have homework that gets checked and returned, even if it's online homework. Reviewing the homework, especially the questions you missed points on, in the days leading up to your exam guarantees that you don't make the same mistakes twice. Even if your professor doesn't make the exam, he/she knows the format and content so they typically make the homework a reflection of the test. Last semester, I got frustrated a lot when I'd see a question on the test that looked just like the homework but I couldn't remember or didn't know how to get the answer. I've gotten into the practice of going through the questions step by step to find out where I went wrong, how to get the right answer, and why it's right which improves my understanding of the material in general.

3. Make a Study Guide

I've had a couple classes that allow a study sheet during the exam and a lot that don't. Whether I'll be able to have it on the exam or not, I hand write a study guide for every exam as a way to figure out the most important things I need to know. Not only is it proven that writing by hand improves retention better than typing, but it also eliminates distractions. If you maintain this strategy, by the final exam you'll have a study guide for every chapter or set of chapters with the most important information to remember which will help you study more efficiently.

4. Go to Office Hours

To be honest, I rarely ever go to office hours because I hate asking for help. However, in less math or formula based classes, office hours allow you to ask your professor if you're on the right track and figure out exactly what they want. Last semester, I went to office hours for the first time 4 days before the final exam because I needed a great grade on the final to do well in the class. I wish I had gone sooner because I was able to share my ideas for the final essay with my professor and get extremely valuable feedback. Plus, as I mentioned in my tips for starting the semester the right way, it puts a face to your name and shows your professor that you're dedicated to the class.

5. Take Practice Exams

Many classes or professors offer examples of the past year's exams for students to practice. Though the questions won't be exactly the same, it gives you a sense of how you'll be tested. I've found that knowing the material only gets you part of the way, the important part is knowing how to apply it to the questions on the exam. When taking a practice exam, instead of looking at the answers question by question simulate a test environment. You'll figure out if you're taking the right amount of time, which problems you can't figure out on your own, and what you need to study more. Even if your exam his also applies if your final is an essay, write practice essays on possible prompts so you'll already have ideas when you sit down for the real one.

I hope this helped you ace your exams and study more efficiently! Thanks for reading, xx Lauren
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