You're faced with an exam and you have pages and pages to study. Let's look at a simple way to make that studying easier so you retain important information and disregard information you don't need to know. This is a technique that you can use throughout your years in school. Studying for an exam does not have to be exhausting or painful when you follow these simple how-to skills.
- Think about what the exam will cover. Although you might think the exam will cover EVERYTHING, that's just not true. If you aren't certain what might be asked, then you can clarify your questions with your teacher, another student or your parents. Only study what you know will be on this particular exam.
- Find the area in the book or gather your articles. Your exam might be on chapters 2-5 in the subject and you might have 3 articles to read. Limit your attention to just those.
- Write down the questions you might be asked. It's a good idea to write down all the questions you think you'll be asked. Put each question on a separate piece of paper or index card. You'll add short notes to each of these questions as you read.
- Quickly read each chapter or article. Quickly means quickly. This way you become familiar with each chapter or article. If any answers to your question pop out at you, then put a check or tick in the margin if possible. If you can't mark your book, then put the page and paragraph number on the sheet of the question you think you have answered.
- Reread each article. Here's the fun part. This is where you get to say 'nope' or 'yup.' Read the first paragraph. Does it contain any information that will give an answer to one of the questions that might be asked? If 'nope,' then forever ignore that paragraph. Every chapter will have many paragraphs that will not give you any answers. If any paragraph gives you any information that might be helpful, then either check/tick or put the page and paragraph number on the sheet with the specific question.
- Only mark what you DON'T KNOW. As you read each paragraph, if you find information that you ALREADY KNOW and will easily remember, then you don't need to highlight it. YOU ALREADY KNOW IT! You might just make a short note of the page and paragraph number if that makes you feel more secure. As you get better and more confident, only highlight what you don't know.
- Fill each question page. As you go through each chapter or article, you'll find page and paragraph numbers that fit each question.
- Reread only those page and paragraph numbers. You've now done most of your studying. Now you get to go back and reread the page and paragraph numbers and what you don't know. Now's the time to take short notes to remind yourself of the answers.
- Talk out the answers out loud. Talk out loud (that's important), saying the answers to the question. Talking out loud makes you hear what is in your head. This will help you clarify your answers. Often schoolmates or family members will love to hear your knowledge. Don't be shy. Use your notes to remind yourself and put a big check or star as a memory tool if you forget something.
- Put down the studying for a day or two. Just think over what you've learned and feel amazed at how quickly you have learned.
Too many young people believe they have to memorize every single word in the book. But when you look at words, there are a lot of 'the, and, but, to, for, big, short, tall, he, she, they' words. You only want to highlight what you really don't know. Also, don't waste your time rewriting everything. Just use words (or even pictures) that cue your already amazing memory. You'll be able to add all these little words on the exam. It's never about studying more. It's always about studying better. Learning to read what's important and ignoring all the filler text is a great way to make studying more enjoyable. It's not cheating. It's being clever.
Winter Green is trustee of Common Knowledge Trust producing: The Pink Kit Method For Birthing Better®