How To Study Effectively As Finals Approach

When I first got to college, I expected it to be hard work, so I wasn’t surprised when it was. Luckily, I am a slight nerd (major nerd), so I don’t necessarily mind studying for long periods of time. The one thing I did not expect was how much I would need to change my study habits. When classes began, I quickly realized that it didn’t matter how long I studied if I wasn’t studying effectively. On the first day of chemistry class, my professor suggested we watch a series of videos, created by professor of psychology Dr. Spephen Chew from Samford University, which contain great information about successful learning. Through these videos and personal experiences at the University of Iowa, I’ve learned the following tips that have made a huge impact on my academics success.

Levels of Processing

While learning, there are two different approaches to studying material. The most ineffective approach, but often used, is shallow processing. Shallow processing includes focusing on the meaningless aspects of the information. Some common examples are memorizing definitions or mindlessly re-reading notes. Instead, it is better to use deep level processing, which includes focusing on the true meaning of the material. For example, instead of studying the definitions of a word, ask yourself how the new word relates to something personal in your own life or information you already know.

Recall and Retrieval 

Throughout the series of videos, the Dr. Spephen Chew provided many examples of what deep level processing looks like such as taking advantage of practice questions at the end of the chapter or group studying. The main focus is to study in the way you will be tested. Since you will not get to use your book or notes during an exam, testing yourself prior to the exam can be very effective. Close your book and notes and see how much you can recall by writing it down or answering practice questions without any aid from course material. Explaining the information to friends or individuals in a study session can also be a valuable tool in evaluating how well you understand the content. 

Time Spent Studying

Another common mistake students make is overestimating their knowledge on the material. This causes issues during the exam time because the answers do not readily come to mind. Instead of simply studying until you can recall the information once, study until you can recall the material quickly and easily. This will create more durable memories, and you won’t miss a question on an exam that you studied but could not remember. 

Where and When to Study

Every individual is different regarding their preferences for how they like to study. Whatever your preference may be, find a place where you know you can be productive and get rid of all distractions. Multi-tasking is a myth. Allow yourself breaks, but during your study time, be focused. It may be necessary to turn your phone off or leave your room if you know it contains distractions. Finally, switch up what subjects you are studying. It is not beneficial to focus on one subject for multiple hours. Smaller and more frequent study sessions lead to better memory recall.

I can personally attest to the benefits of deep level processing. It’s not easy to break poor studying habits, but the more consistent you are, the easier it will become. Now is a great time to change studying habits as finals are approaching. If you want more information on this topic, I would highly encourage watching the videos from Samford University. Good luck, collegiettes!