9 Study Hacks for Your Easiest Test Prep Yet

There’s a saying that floats around the Internet around midterms and finals every year: studying = students + dying. This definitely doesn’t need to be the case come any big exam, paper, project or major assignment, however! Regardless of your campus’s nerd factor, you can still mix things up next time your studying takes a turn for the worse with one of the following “study hacks.”

1. Get colorful

There are lots of ways to work that right brain of yours when it comes to studying. To start, think about taking notes (or rewriting ones you hastily scribbled down during a lecture) in different colors. Use different colored pens to highlight or write different parts of your notes. For example, use one color for original material, another one for references to a textbook or other physical materials used in the class and another one for possible exam or test material hinted at during a lecture. Many studies have also shown that color can have a significant effect on your mood. Changing from a boring black pen to brighter, more interesting colors can turn studying into a way more positive experience. 

There are other ways to get creative while studying and prepping for projects and exams as well. Think about integrating a visual or two into your notes when studying, or add some visual flair to a project or presentation you’re prepping for, like a picture or two, a diagram, a chart or table, a graph or something else that catches the eye. Switching from poring over notes and reading lots and lots of text to thinking visually could be just the break you need. Get those creative juices flowing, and inspiration is sure to follow!

2. Put your notes to music

Playing to your strengths is definitely key when it comes to livening up a study sesh. For more musically-inclined collegiettes, it’s just a matter of finding the perfect pitch!

“For my geology class two years ago (because science is so not my thing, and music is so my thing), I used my notes and created songs to the tune of my favorite songs, incorporating the content from my notes!” says Hannah Richman, a student at Hofstra University.

To get started, think of a basic tune, a killer song that won’t get out of your head or anything else catchy. Then, start swapping out the actual lyrics with bits and pieces from your notes. You may not be the next Iggy Azalea, but you’ll feel way more prepared for your next midterm! 

3. Use an Internet-blocking app

This might just be the simplest tip you can follow to make studying more efficient and faster: Stay off unnecessary sites! Apps like Self Control (for Macs) and Cold Turkey (for PCs) block sites like Twitter and Facebook that can be oh-so-fun but oh-so-distracting as well. Stay on track, finish studying and then tweet to your heart’s content!

4. Speed things up

Maximize your listening time if you’re reviewing lectures or other recorded material by quickening the pace. Programs like Audacity, which you can use to record all kinds of audio files, allow you to speed up audio and video so you can watch it twice as fast – as long as you can keep up, that is! Use the effects menu in Audacity to mess around with different speeds to find one that works for you. This site has a really helpful explanation of how to do this if you’re still confused.

5. Bribe yourself

When it comes to prepping for a big exam, you definitely don’t need to be above a bribe. “When I have a big exam, I try to give myself incentives to keep my motivation high,” says Alicia Thomas, a collegiette from Penn State University. “I make little deals with myself, like, ‘If you read 20 more pages you can have some frozen yogurt,’ or, ‘Once you know all of the terms on these flash cards you can watch an episode of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix.’" 

If you’re having trouble coming up with an incentive to use, there’s always the gummy bear system! Place a small piece of food (like gummy bears) at staggered intervals throughout a page of text you’re trying to read. Once you reach the item, pop it in your mouth and enjoy! Ahh, the sweet reward of studying…

6. YouTube it

If you’re slogging your way through a boring chapter in your econ textbook, see if there are lectures or videos available on sites like YouTube that might explain the material in a more exciting and understandable manner. These manageable, bite-sized videos that can be excellent sources for clarifying concepts that are tripping you up or were introduced in a confusing way by a professor or TA! Channels like Crash Course offer up a bunch of these mini lectures on a range of topics spanning everything from how to convert units in science to the history of World War I, usually in 15 minutes or fewer!  MinutePhysics and TED-Ed are two other channels with tons of thought-provoking, relevant lectures just waiting to enhance your studying experience.

7. Try the Pomodoro Technique

Make the most of your study time! Named for the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Francesco Cirillo, the founder of this technique, first used, the Pomodoro Technique states that whenever you’re working on something that takes up a large chunk of time (e.g. studying for a quiz, writing a paper, preparing a midterm project or whatever it is you might be working on), it’s most efficient to spend 25 minutes working on the task, then take a five-minute break. After four 25-minute chunks, take a 15-30 minute break instead. If you find yourself getting distracted or losing focus, the Pomodoro Technique might be worth a shot!

The method itself is in line with studies in recent years that show that taking short breaks can increase the amount of memory a person retains. For collegiettes who want to learn more, check out this short video to get a better feel for the Pomodoro Technique.

8. Make a game out of studying

This one takes some creativity at the start, but can be super fun and totally worth it in the end. Take a board or card game and repurpose it to meet your study needs. For instance, replace the cards in games like Trivial Pursuit with flashcards related to your next exam or quiz for a class. Or, take a game like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, and instead of using the response cards provided in the game, use cards with new vocab words for a second language class instead. Ask your friends in a class to write out a portion of the deck to spread the workload out a bit. Then, host a game night! It’ll be so much fun you won’t even realize you’re studying!

9. Crank up the tunes

It’s an age-old question, and is probably a battle you fought once or twice with your parents when you were in high school: Can listening to music really help you study better? The answer, it turns out, is yes! Research has found that playing music can improve your attention span (meaning you’re able to study longer!) and memory (so you’ll ace that next exam). Other scientists have also found that music increases brain processing speed, as well as improving the accuracy of brain processing as well.

That being said, don’t waste time shuffling mindlessly through your iTunes library or clicking on Pandora station after Pandora station. Have a few go-to options when it comes to your study playlist to save you time and make studying a bit more fun. “It sounds dumb, but I have a playlist of guilty pleasure K-pop songs ready for whenever I need to do some major studying,” says Jolena Baker, a collegiette at the University of Minnesota. “I only listen to this playlist when I’m studying, so it’s sort of like a little treat for myself. Even if I’m not looking forward to studying, I’m looking forward to hearing some great tunes.”  

Studying in no way has to end in you dying. To avoid death by boredom, mix things up by throwing a hack or two into your normal study routine. You never know – you might even enjoy hitting the books!