There comes a time where simply reading your notes is not gonna help you score good grades anymore. Understanding your test conditions can help you already while you study and prepare for your upcoming exam.
The following are proven strategies that have helped many students improve test scores and prepare more effectively for exams.
Practice with similar processing that will be required during the test.
Think about how you will be tested on the information you need to remember. Will it be multiple choice tests? Essay questions? Then make your practice match the situation.
But remember to always practice free recall questions as well, even if your test is a recognition test (multiple choice).
I suggest using 25% recognition vs. 75% free recall. Free recall practice is much more powerful and effective for your memory.
If you want to know how to use recognition & recall questions for test prep, check out this video:
Practice with similar context that your test is going to be in.
As part of your preparation, try to simulate the test situation.
Is it quiet, lots of natural or artificial light, uncomfortable chairs, what do you see in front of you when you look up? Are you going to be sitting, what are the light conditions in the room, how does your desk look like, is it empty, can you have your books out? Try to simulate as much as you can.
Here are some ideas on the brain science behind test preparation:
The other part of your preparation should be studying in as many environments and situations as possible in order to create more memories.
Complete a mock test 3-4 days before an exam and you’ll know where to focus your studying for the last couple of days.
For oral exams, simulate a test situation with your friend or parents. Use a timer!
Mix up ideas and questions from different chapters when you review. This will more closely simulate a test situation than if you review in clumps.
Use multiple modes when reviewing information and you will create a stronger memory. Try to use visual, auditory and kinesthetic mode. That means, try to read and review quietly, tell the information out loud to yourself or to your friends, and use movement, clapping, self-high-5s when succeeding. Don’t just restrict yourself to one style.
If you’re interested in how to apply multi-modal learning, watch this:
Plan Your Study Time.
Make time for studying. Setting aside regular time to study is critical for achieving high test performance. I recommend preparing a term calendar, weekly schedule and daily schedule that includes regular study sessions. Review your class notes every day in order to store them safely in your long-term memory.
Don’t procrastinate or cram!
Space out your practice. Study the material for the test when it becomes available, and continue to review the material up until the test day.
Go through new notes as well as old notes that are relevant to the test. Mix them up.
By waiting until the last minute and trying to cram for the test the night before, you actually increase the amount of anxiety you feel. This leads to an increase in negative self-talk, such as “I can’t learn this.” “I’m going to fail.” Consequently, this decreases your performance on the test.
There is one secret that teachers don’t want you to know. It is that cramming DOES work in ONE specific situation. If you want to find out, watch this:
Stick to one task at a time. Don’t multi-task while studying.
That means turning off visual and auditory distractions like your phone, social media, additional tabs on your computer etc. Because you want to establish strong memories when studying!
If preparing for multiple subjects at once, don’t study similar tasks after each other. Studying Spanish and French vocabulary one after the other will just confuse your brain. Plan on studying Math or Biology in the meantime before you continue with vocabulary. Hence, this will be less confusing to the brain.
Get enough sleep!
Short naps (20 minutes) can recover energy.
Longer naps (60+ minutes) can enter the phase of sleep where memory consolidation happens.
However, be aware of the different sleep cycles! Ending your naps on a full sleep cycle can prevent grogginess, therefore rather nap for 90min!
And of course, getting enough sleep at night is essential!
If you are intrigued by the power of napping, learn more about the different purposes of different length power naps and how they can be useful for your studying:
Ask Your Teacher for Direction.
Asking your teacher directly is the best way to study for the test. I’ve mostly been willing to share some tips for an upcoming test with my students. As a teacher I appreciated students who were trying hard and put effort in when preparing. Hence I assume many teachers would be open to sharing with you suggestions (even secrets) as to how to best prepare for their exams.
Don’t be scared to ask your teacher about what subjects or topics you will be tested on during the exam – even what types of questions there might be 🙂
Find a study group.
A group study session is an ideal time to review and compare notes, ask each other questions, explain ideas to one another and discuss the upcoming exam and difficult concepts. Whenever appropriate you can even delegate study tasks. What’s important is to set an agenda and a specific time frame for your group study session so that you don’t waste your work time and you steer away from important study topics.
In conclusion, depending on your level of education, different test preparation strategies should be applied. Students aged 10-14 study differently for their tests than students aged 15-17 or college students.
I hope these tips will be useful to you. Additionally, if you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!
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