For many college and high school students, final end-of-course-exams aren’t too far away. These potentially grade changing exams can cause quite a lot of stress on students!
In fact, a recent study from Harvard discovered that “83 percent of teens surveyed cited school as a source of stress.” Well, stress no more (at least worry a little less)! For all kinds of learners, there are several tried and true techniques proven to help retain knowledge. From self-recorded audio notes to textbook reading techniques, here are a few helpful tips to make sure you’re prepared to ace any test that stands in your way!
Tip #1 – Find Out What Type of Learner You Are
It’s no secret that we all learn differently. Some people prefer to see things visually, while others claim to be more hands-on. To best retain knowledge, it is important to find out which method of learning works the best for you.
Here are a few of the most common learning methods:
- Visual – Visual learners prefer seeing the information they are trying to retain. For example, they seek out resources such as infographics, charts or diagrams.
If this sounds like you, don’t be surprised. According to the Social Science Research Network, “65 percent of the population” are visual learners—so, the majority of people prefer to receive information this way!
- Audible – Some people prefer hearing the information to grasp it. These learners excel when exposed to lectures, audio lessons and conversations about the topic in discussion. It’s no secret that the classic “lecture and take notes” is a very common method of teaching. Audible learners have a strong advantage in the classroom.
- Verbal – These learners like to “talk it out” so that they can confirm that they understand the knowledge and can put it into terms that work best for them for retention. For example, verbal learners may absorb knowledge best when they can teach it to others.
- Kinesthetic – Kinesthetic learners retain information best when they are in action. They prefer to be hands-on, engaged and in-motion. Kinesthetic learners are also easy to spot. They are often the people fidgeting in class–anxious to get up and do something!
According to Inc., “Kinesthetic learners are a complex bunch and make up just 5 percent of the population.”
- Repetition – Lastly, some prefer to study the good, old-fashioned way. They repeat the information over and over multiple times to “make it stick” in their memory. Repetition can be helpful for multiple types of learners, especially if the repetition occurs in a method that is conducive to their preferred learning style!
To find out which kind of learner you are, here is a helpful guide from LifeHack.org.
Tip #2 – Read the Textbook
Have you ever taken a test and seen a question that the teacher never covered in class? Chances are, the question came directly from the textbook! We know it’s painful, but it’s true. Reading your course-provided textbook from start to finish is a great way to ensure you are prepared for any examination.
Not only is reading the textbook an additional form of repetition, but many courses will draw questions directly out of the provided textbook! According to the Journal of Accountancy, “Many textbook publishers now make exam questions and answers available to faculty who use their books. These ‘publisher test banks’ (PTBs) can be a boon to faculty members who are pressed for time.” Not only does this save time, but it’s a great way for teachers to make sure that students are reading the material required in class.
Tip #3 – Taking Notes from the Textbook
Unless you have a photographic memory, it’s probably unlikely that reading the textbook from start to finish will help you retain the information you’re reading. This is where strong note-taking techniques can save you a ton of time and energy!
While reading the text, have a pen and journal handy (or your preferred digital device). Whenever you come across a key phrase written in bold typeface, chances are that the definition that follows is of importance.
Be sure to write down all of the phrases that are highlighted or bolded in the reading chapter with their definition. Once complete, you can go back and re-read your notes to study all of the major points within the chapter. This will save you time from re-reading the whole chapter multiple times and ensure that you have memorized the most important topics.
Tip #4 – Take Notes While in Class
We get it. It can be hard to pay attention during a lecture. No matter how enthusiastic your teacher may be, certain subjects can put the most eager student straight to sleep.
However, note-taking during a lecture is vital for those looking to succeed on their exams. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill finds that, “Good note-taking will improve your active listening, comprehension of material and retention. It will help you better remember what you hear and see.” So, don’t just show up to class and try to pay attention. The act of physically writing down information, while listening to it, will naturally help you retain the information!
This doesn’t mean that you have to write down everything mentioned during a lecture. Just jot down the key points throughout the lecture. Combine this information with your notes from the textbook, and you’ve created the perfect study guide.
Tip #5 – Attend Tutor Sessions
You’ve read the book, paid attention in class and reviewed your notes, but the information still isn’t sinking in. Don’t worry! For our visual, kinesthetic and verbal learners (most of us), this should be normal.
Visiting with a tutor will help a verbal learner “talk out” the information they are learning. Asking questions and conversing back and forth with a tutor is a wonderful way for these types of learners to solidify their knowledge.
For a visual learner, tutors can help further explain concepts with resources not readily available in the textbook or in lecture notes. They can draw up a diagram on a whiteboard to help the student grasp the concepts presented.
For a kinesthetic learner, a group environment is a perfect way to help stimulate their memory and learning ability. Group discussions and activities in smaller settings such as “study hours” can be invaluable.
Visiting with a tutor, even once or twice during a month, can make a huge improvement on a student’s final grade. Not to mention, teachers notice which students are putting in the extra effort to earn their grade!
iSchool Virtual Academy provides free, face-to-face tutoring at our Success Centers from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Students can make an appointment and go to tutoring in-person at our Arlington or San Antonio system. For students who do not live within driving distance to one of our tutoring centers, we also have an online tutoring company we partner with to help students with support after hours.
Tip #6 – Repeat, Repeat, Repeat – In a Method That Fits Your Learning Style
As the old saying goes, “you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole.” Okay, weird analogy, we know, but at the end of the day, it’s important that you spend most of your time studying in a manner that is conducive to your natural learning abilities.
For example, if you’re an audible learner, take your notes by speaking in a voice recorder instead of writing them down. This will allow you to hear the information versus reading it, thus helping you remember the information more easily.
Students who try to force memorization in a method that doesn’t work for them can experience frustration and even “burn out.” Don’t let this be you! Focusing on your preferred learning style will not only make studying more enjoyable but will help boost your grades while reducing stress. Now that sounds like a winning plan!
All the tips listed above have one thing in common: they take hard work. It’s not the will to succeed that separates people, it’s the will to do what it takes to succeed. There are no shortcuts in life, especially when it comes to education. However, you can “work smarter, not harder,” by reading your textbook, taking notes in class, visiting with a tutor and repeating the information in the method that works best for you.
Good luck this year on your finals. We have a feeling you’re going to ace them!