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The Ultimate Study Guide You Simply Cannot Ignore

In the fall of 2019, I was a senior in high school – anxious, ‘Type A’ and eager to graduate. I took a class called “Comparative World Religions” which had a field trip towards the end of the semester. My classmates and I visited several places of worship, but I wasn’t able to fully enjoy myself because of a big test on the horizon. 

The week before, I made a study guide for the test. My friend and I took turns quizzing each other on it and I even sent it around to other classmates. Despite our anxiety during that last-minute cram session, most of the class did well on the test. This had me convinced that I was the queen of making study guides (my ego has never recovered and I will be telling this story to my future great-grandchildren, obviously). 

Now that I have entered the university academic scene, I can’t help but laugh at my high school self. I had no idea how much more intense the coursework would become. However, knowing how to study remained an invaluable skill. I have heard from many students that they were never taught how to study properly and as a result, their university grades have suffered. You can relax now. Just like with that big test in high school, I am here to help. 

Introducing the study guide. There are four main rules when it comes to creating a study guide. If you need a template, there are many available on the graphic design website Canva, which you can print as a PDF for free at home. 

Rule #1

Not to be contradictory right off the bat, but the number 1 rule when creating study guides is to do it your own way! Everyone learns and remembers differently. Copying this guide to a T without considering your personal learning styles will not produce good study sessions. 

Rule #2

Compile all the information you need to know into the study guides. You shouldn’t have to check your lecture notes after they’ve been transferred to your guides. 

For arts courses specifically, focus on recording the key concepts and formulating your own review questions. Ask yourself: ‘What did we discuss extensively in class? What concepts did my professor emphasize?’

For math & science courses, use flash cards for quick definitions in addition to working through old homework questions or extra practice exercises. Admittedly, it has been a while since I have done math or science, but what always worked for me was doing the practice problems over and over until I could do them in my sleep.

Rule #3

Use highlighters sparingly. It’s easy to get carried away, but there is no benefit in making your notes look like a colouring page. Alternatively, use different coloured pens to underline important concepts, or draw boxes around key terms. Personally, I only highlight examples of key concepts. In an essay or short answer question, discussing these specific examples will display your understanding of the concept. 

Rule #4

Draw what you can. Make diagrams for concepts that can be easily illustrated rather than written down. This is just another way to make studying fun and engage different parts of your brain in learning. 

Once you have completed your guides, review them. This does not mean simply reading through the guides—you need to cover the answers and quiz yourself. This is when flash cards come in handy. 

It may be hard to find motivation to study at the end of a semester. We all feel overwhelmed and exhausted after working so hard for months. Keep in mind that it is always better to study a little bit than not to study at all. 

If you really need the extra kick, try the romanticization approach. Pretend you’re a charmingly bookish academia type, working towards achieving your dreams. It’s easy to get caught up in the negative feelings associated with intense university coursework. Just remember that you are in university for a reason. Someday all these hours spent doing tedious work will be worth it. 

As my grandmother said to me a few weeks ago, “Don’t sweat the small stuff kid.” Study hard, and good luck!

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Angèle Hatton

Dalhousie '24

Angèle is a second year journalism student at the University of King's College who has always dreamed of being a writer. In her spare time, you'll find her listening to audiobooks, watching Gilmore Girls (again), or scouring the internet for rare squishmallows. In her opinion, you can never have too many.
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