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By: Dr. Lynn Fontana

Tests, and the studying that is needed to prepare for tests, can be very stressful and overwhelming for students. Most of the time, students don’t know where to start with all their class materials or how to study the materials in an effective manner.

But with our 6 study tips for students, they can learn effective habits, strategies and how to do their best on tests!

1. Begin studying now

Studying begins on the first day of any class and should be an ongoing process. Set aside a few minutes every night to review what you learned in class that day, regardless of whether you have a homework assignment or not. Choose a different topic or area to study each night. For example, one night you might study vocabulary, while on another, you might study key dates. Reviewing the material on an ongoing basis will help you learn the information, take the pressure off the test preparation process and help you perform better on test day.

2. Note-taking skills

As we discussed, preparing for a test starts much earlier than the week of the test. To have the right materials to study for the test, students must learn good note-taking strategies to implement during class and while reading school textbooks. Students should use different types of graphic organizers and outlines to help organize the information in meaningful ways. This will help students identify the key points and make connections between ideas. This, in turn, will help students synthesize, process and then recall information. Teachers will sometimes help students with taking notes by emphasizing points that should be written down during classroom lectures. However, knowing how to independently apply active listening and reading strategies to take notes is a skill that is critical for lifelong academic success.

3. Know what to expect

When you know you have a test coming up and want to know how to study for it, make sure you understand your teacher’s expectations. This means knowing what concepts will be tested and how they will be assessed. For example, will the test include all multiple-choice items or will it contain essay items or both? Different question types will require you to use different test-taking strategies. Pay attention when your teacher discusses expectations, and always ask questions if anything is unclear.

4. Create a study guide

While your teachers may provide study guides, it is smart to get in the habit of creating your own. Use old tests and quizzes to create your own practice tests or study guides based on the materials, format and question styles that will be assessed or that your teacher will use.

5. Break it down

Once you have organized your notes and know the target of the test or quiz, it’s time to prepare for test day. If you’ve been setting aside time each night to study, this process shouldn’t be overwhelming. Review your materials by sections or topics and start reviewing them part by part. Use different strategies to study different types of information or school subjects. For example, create story webs to break down the literary elements of a story or fiction text, use a timeline to study key dates of a historical event or use an outline to plan your response to an essay item. Make sure to focus more time on topics or question types that you know are particularly challenging. Once you feel as if you have a certain topic covered, move on to the next.

6. Study with a group

Work with one classmate or multiple classmates to prepare for an assessment—use Zoom or a virtual hangout for easier planning. Also consider scheduling a regular time each week to review material as a group. Think of creative ways to work together to test your knowledge of the content. For example, you might create games to help test your knowledge and help boost each other’s confidence.

Trial and error

It’s also important to realize that what works for one student may not work for another. Figure out what works for you, and build on those study skills and strategies over time. If you need help figuring out what study skills are best for you, Sylvan’s expert tutors can help you work on study skills and build confidence!

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