Big Four Study Tips

Improve your studying with these tips, things to watch out for, and steps to take before a test

Study Tips

#1: Spacing

  • It is better to spend 15 minutes a day studying for four days than it is to spend one hour studying all at once.
    • This does not mean you have to study for more time, just longer periods of time
  • Our brains tend to forget what we learn in the beginning. So, the first time we learn it, we usually forget it (even if we studied for a really long time).
  • There is no detriment to waiting (even a long time) between study sessions,

#2: Interweaving

  • Don’t study CHEM, CHEM, CHEM, CHEM then BIO, BIO, BIO, BIO then MATH, MATH, MATH, MATH, etc. Interweave them. Start with math…switch to reading…switch to science…switch back to math.
  • But…won’t I forget what I studied in Chem when I switch to Bio, or Math?
    • YES!!!
      • Forgetting and re-learning actually helps you learn better!

#3: Testing

  • A lot of times, testing gets a bad reputation, but it is the single-most-effective way to know whether or not you learned the material that you studied.
  • Study your material…wait at least ten minutes (longer wait is actually better) before testing yourself.
  • Sometimes, we think we know the material. When we re-read it, we say “Oh, yeah…I know this."
    • Quizzing yourself lets you know what you have learnded, and what you really need to study.

#4: Overlearning

  • Even after you know the material, you must continue to study it. You don’t just want to learn the material. You want to overlearn it.
  • You want some of the processes to become automatic. This opens up your mind for more complex things.

Things to Watch For

  • This will be hard. It’s about learning, not just about good grades. This is a long-term plan.
  • Expect an initial dip in grades.
  • Just re-reading is not effective (it’s better to use this time to quiz yourself)
  • Nothing beats hard work and practice. Practice, practice, practice, practice!

What To Do Before The Test

Step 1

Begin studying more than just a few days before the exam. When you’re looking through the material for your classes, make a list of:

  • Main Ideas/Objectives
    • These can come from the syllabus, chapter headings, lecture titles, etc.

Step 2

Take your list to the instructor during office hours and ask:

  • What am I missing?
  • What should I focus on?

Step 3

Develop questions and self-test

  • Go back through your course materials (book, lectures, slides, etc.) and generate questions about the material.
    a. One good way to do this is to read a paragraph or page in your textbook, and then generate one to two questions based on what you just read.
  • These questions can become your study guide for the class, and since they’re based on the material, if you can’t figure out the answer, you can always go back and check!
  • Remember that a lot of instructors look for application more than just recall, so make sure that your questions test whether or not you really know the material!