As you may or may not know (if you don’t: where have you been all this time?!?): I’m a college student. And because I do take on quite an extra load of work (extra courses, a job, extracurricular activities) and still do manage to get quite good marks (in general, there’s exceptions to every rule), I have been told that I’m pretty good at the whole studying thing.
What’s more, I have been asked how exactly I do it, and seeing how as “no sleep, no life” apparently wasn’t a sufficient answer, I figured I’d write some of my tips down here!
I’ve already discussed how to make sure you’re prepared, both for school in general and for your classes, as well as how to survive your manuals and how to take notes (you can find all of those here
Of course, you do, eventually, have to study what you’ve been writing down, so let’s get started!
Let me just start off by telling you: there’s a reason I first discussed both how to take notes and how to survive your manuals – namely: you can’t actually really get to studying until you’ve done those. And even when you’ve done those, there’s still a long way to go before you can actually say you know your stuff.
First step: you have to put it all together – as I already said, many of my professors are experts at giving us basically 3 times the amount of stuff to learn, while only teaching 1 part themselves (long live manuals! and other set reading!). My first tip, therefore, is definitely: make sure you have everything together.
Usually, once I’ve checked my notes and made sure to highlight everything important in my manual, I’ll try to make a summary or a schema with all of the info in there. This usually makes it a lot easier to get all the separate elements into your head – because they’re not separate anymore!
Now, how to make these schemas you ask? Again, that may vary from course to course – BUT: there are (at least) some tendencies.
For courses such as history, it is always very important to not forget about the whole package – often, you’ll discuss (in the case of history) first politics, then economics, then culture, for one certain period, and then move on to the next and do the same.
However, once you’re supposed to actually see or discuss tendencies, it’s really important that you are able to actually put everything ‘politics’ or ‘economics’ together.
Or, in the case of the above picture, how the literary tendencies in Belgium and the Netherlands compared…
Of course, for many courses, you can’t really compare anything, so you get stuck making your regular everyday schema:
One of the most important things when doing this, is to remember that it is really not that important to have every tiny detail in here – you’d just end up with hundreds of pages then!
It’s generally more useful to just use this as a way to put together all main points, and then go over the (less important) details, exercises and examples later, with your schema as a guideline.
Either way, this is the way to go to express relations between parts of your course, to get down the key words, the structure, the logic, etc.
Of course, there are also those courses where you have to learn a ton of data, of words, of types by heart. In those cases, I generally do one of two things.
The first option, one which many people use, I know, is to make flash cards – I have to admit, in general I try to avoid this, because it just takes so awfully long to make them all.
If I do make them, though, I will make sure to do two things: first of all, I use colours – by now you’re probably tired of me constantly going on about colour coding, but I promise you, the reason I keep mentioning it, is because it works. In this particular case, I found that quite often, I would want to add some extra information (just as a reminder) and as such, writing the actual key words in a different colour, allowed for much easier learning.
Second of all – and very basic, really – I number them. There’s always one flash card that seems to go missing, and if you number them, at least you know which one – I once had to help a friend of mine sort through a pile of 150 chemical combinations to figure out which one was gone… It was horrible, and seeing how as I’m supposed to learn over 450 French proverbs by heart…
Second option: I make “dossiers“: I specifically do this for classes where the same author, or historical person, or movement might occur in different contexts – my professors do love to then ask us “everything we know about this person”. I’ll just go through my course notes and write down, either by hand or on my laptop, but always alphabetically, every author I come across and what’s being said about them, their work, until I’ve gone through all of my course notes. Why, you may ask?
Because this allows a great, simple overview of all the important information you might need to have and, again, it’s really important not to lose the overview, and this allows you to do so ànd you’re going through all your course notes, which is never anything but good!
Once you’ve done all this, and I cannot express enough how important this is: make a table of contents – not just of your manual, or of your course notes, but of everything you have – this will allow you to (easily) go through everything – not just if you’re trying to look something up, but also right before your exam, when you’re stressing out and just know you saw that one thing somewhere!
Finally, again, some things that might also be helpful: take note of what pages you’re getting the information from – it doesn’t matter if you’re using flashcards, dossiers, comparisons, or whatever – at one point or another, you are going to wonder whether something is right, and it’ll save you a ton of time if you put down where you get your information from!
Second: of course, sometimes just making the schema can be enough to feel like you got it – BUT in reality, you’ll probably have to repeat, repeat, and repeat – so make sure you schedule enough time for that! (more information on how best figure out your schedule before exams in Tuesday’s post!)
So there you have it, some of my tips on how to get studying – have you got any others? Do you use the same methods as I do? Be sure to let me know below!