fiorella’s declassified school survival guide

Whether you are somewhere in your educational path, whether it be college, high school, middle school, or pre-k, you will be quizzed on a particular subject and offered a letter grade. Getting an A feels good to almost everyone, but the work that has to be put into studying for it does not. 

Creating your own study technique can be difficult and take some time based on what you learn and the type of material you will be tested on. Studying for a biology test will be completely different than studying for a math test. The last few years in my educational journey have mostly involved projects and exams focused on problem-solving, but there are some tips I can share that can work for most subjects. 

Determine Your Timeline and Type of Test

Cramming will not work if it is done super last minute. Now I won’t dismiss it completely as I am VERY guilty of this, but give yourself at least a decent amount of time to cram. Make sure to know what topics/chapters will be covered by either talking to your professor looking at the syllabus (if you have one). If your test covers ten long chapters with complex topics, don’t expect to learn it all in one night. Expand it out into a few days to give yourself time to actually learn, have time for other activities, and most importantly, prevent any unwanted anxiety. 

Think about the best way to learn the material as well. If your test requires a lot of memorization and definitions, then this is a signal that you will most likely need to focus on repetition via writing in order to learn the material. If you have an algebra test, the best way to learn will be through practice exercises rather than reading about the topic. It’s always a good idea to consult your professor or class teaching assistant and ask what format the test will be in, how many questions there will be, and the time allowed to take it.

Create Your Study Guide

I’ve always created a study guide before a test of the main key points to know. Not only does creating it help you learn, but it also allows you to reference those topics sometime in the future if you need a quick refresher for a final exam. Personally, the best way for me to create my study guides is to hand-write them as it allows for better memorization. A study guide (depending on the subject and whatever is applicable) should include: 

  • Key definitions
  • Overall description of procedures
  • High-level step by step guide of a process
  • Examples of a solved problem (that isn’t too easy)

A key step for me in my study routine is to have some scrap paper which I use to rewrite concepts or definitions I have a hard time memorizing or understanding. I will usually rewrite it three times and repeat it back to myself as well. If I don’t have time to make a hand-written study guide and need to type it up instead, I always ensure to do that hand-written repetition for areas that are giving me trouble. 

Find Your Best Study Environment

Where you study also makes a huge difference as well, and you need to ask yourself some questions and be completely honest with your answers.

  • Are you more focused in the morning or late afternoon?
  • Do you get sleepy with low lights or by sitting on a couch?
  • Do you get distracted by your friends or family?
  • Are you truly able to multitask?
  • Does caffeine make you anxious or jittery?

More often than not, you will get easily distracted by friends and fall asleep studying on your couch. It’s very tempting to study with some classmates and have a less lonely study session, but you need to truly examine your character and the best way of learning. This can take some time, so be patient but always be honest and don’t be afraid of declining invitations for study groups. It took me three years of different college classes to somewhat figure out what worked and what didn’t. I used to load up on 2-3 cups of coffee at 7 pm to stay at the library for hours until 3 am and walk back to my dorm in 10-degree weather during the winter. Now looking back at it, I realize that I wasted so much of that time ineffectively since I felt very tired and burnt out. By the beginning of my senior year, I figured out that I was more focused in the morning without anyone around and only needed one cup of coffee (more of a daily habit rather than for energy) to have a productive study session for a few hours before my classes began for the day. 

Actually, Study

It’s grind time, and you need to sit down and start studying. Good thing that by creating your study guide, you are already studying! I like to supplement my studying by watching youtube videos for any topics that are not clear to me. There are all sorts of videos out there, so you are bound to find one that makes sense to you. Also, be sure to give yourself breaks, look at something for a long time, and it won’t make sense. I sometimes like to use the Pomodoro technique of studying for bursts of 25 mins and taking 5-minute breaks in between. 

Hopefully, you are able to figure out the best way you can learn without burning yourself out and remember that a grade is just that, a grade. Don’t overburden yourself with stress and anxiety with something that isn’t critical in the grand scheme of your life. 

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