Studying for Success: Part Two

Hopefully you read last week’s post describing four tips for successful exam preparation. (The four pointers were: 1- Know your audience, 2- Take detailed notes, 3- Highlight while you read, and 4- Complete all assigned reading several days before the test date.) If you missed, it, here’s the LINK. Today, I’ll share my last two pointers for becoming a supremely confident test-taker:

  1. Develop your study schedule. This requires estimating how many study hours are needed to achieve an excellent result. Determining the amount of hours is an inexact science, but the bottom line is you’re better off overestimating than underestimating. Take into consideration the extent of your study material, the size and type of the test, etc.
    Once you’ve estimated your required study time, assign review hours into your daily schedule. Generally speaking, for midterms and finals, you should plan on studying over a four-day period for each exam. In building my schedule, I would work backwards from the exam date. My objective was always to complete my review by the night before the exam. For example, if my test was on Friday, I would start my review on Monday. That would give me the four days of review I required. Then, it was simply a matter of assigning my study hours to those days, taking into account my class schedule, activities, and the like.
  2. Review your study material (textbook and notebook) using the “rainbow highlighter method.” Here’s how it works: Let’s assume your exam covers five chapters of material. Start your review with the first chapter, rereading the yellow highlighted portion from your initial reading. Because this will be your second reading of that material, your ability to understand and recall it will be twice as good (remember, recall is all about reps!). However, there may still be detail or concepts you’re not totally confident about and where another review would help. Simply take a different color highlighter (e.g., lime green) and highlight those sentences you’ll want to review again tomorrow.
    Repeat this process again the next day using yet a different color (e.g., orange), but only reread the yellow-green section. You’re now reading this information for the fourth time, highlighting in orange any sentences you want to read again tomorrow. This will be yet a further reduction in the amount you need to reread.

You can see how your confidence grows and grows as the amount of material you highlight shrinks and shrinks. At the end of your review period, you’ve used several different highlighted colors and seen the most difficult material four to five times. This degree of repetition has a powerful impact on your ability to recall the material—not to mention your confidence as you enter the exam!

So there you have it: my six best tips for achieving your ultimate performance and, with effort, hopefully your best grades ever. This method is excellent at instilling confidence, which is a necessity in achieving under pressure. It completely transformed my academic performance and I hope it will for you, too.

If you’re a teacher, parent, or have a young person in your life who is currently in college or high school, I encourage you to share this with them! Becoming an efficient studier is an important skill to master throughout life.

How do prepare for an exam? If you’re a teacher, do you have your own tips that you share with your students? Do you currently practice any of the above tips? As always, feel free to share your own thoughts, ideas, or experiences.

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