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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

College classes can be an Avengers Level Threat to a student’s GPA: higher stakes on exams/projects, a higher caliber of learning content, higher grading expectations — they all make a recipe for academic doom. Even some high school valedictorians end up barely passing their college courses, so clearly there’s no hope for anyone. 

Now that my naive, high school self has spewed out its worries, let’s use reasoning to debunk these myths. College is designed so that we adults take initiative in our own education — for every 1 hour of class, we are expected to spend 3 hours outside of class revisiting the material. What can differentiate an A-student from an F-student can simply come down to studying practices. With the right study tools, every college student can effectively work through those 3 hours to ace their courses. Here are some study materials I have found especially helpful for certain subject areas.

1. Flashcards

While old-fashioned, flashcards are the most effective, reliable method of implementing active recall. Examining a word or question, trying to extract the answer from your own mind, and only revealing the answer on the other side of the card enables efficient retaining of information. Additionally, the whole process of creating the flashcards becomes its own way of studying the content. I find flashcards to be most helpful for memorization-heavy classes, such as biology, linguistics, foreign language, or anything that requires good vocabulary/factual knowledge.

2. Worksheets

Similar to flashcards, worksheets have a question/answer format that can optimize retaining information. However, worksheets are more applicable for calculation-heavy subjects, such as math, chemistry, physics, etc. Unfortunately, it becomes a bit inconvenient to turn such problems into flashcards, especially since they require lots of scratch work (unless you are a human calculator, in which case, lucky). Using worksheets, practice exams, or study guides the professor provides is probably the smartest decision, otherwise, you can create your own worksheets from examples the professor went over in class, or use problems provided in the textbook.

3. Mind-maps/Flowcharts

For college classes, it is not enough to just memorize facts or calculation procedures: you need to tie the ideas together. Sure, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, but what does that have to do with cellular respiration? What does cellular respiration have to do with eukaryotes? Mind-maps are a bit tricky to create, mainly because there are no templates to go off of (so no way to tell if your “connections” are right, wrong, or incomplete), but that all the more enforces your learning. You must work hard to take all the concepts you’ve learned and find the connections. Usually, it is best to start with broader questions and branch off into smaller details. These can be effective tools for conceptually heavy courses, like History, Sociology, English, and honestly most college classes.

4. Diagrams

Mind-maps are a form of a diagram, but unlike mind-maps, diagrams are a bit more straightforward. Rather than tying concepts together, they are able to tie components of a process/procedure into a pictorial format. I heavily relied on diagrams for my biology courses, where we had to learn complicated processes like DNA replication, life cycles, etc. Where does it happen? Which organelles are involved? What are the reactants and products? Diagrams can answer all these questions through one picture. Any subject that has broad processes to be learned, such as biology, physiology, or psychology, will be best suited for this study tool.

At the end of the day, studying is a skill. It cannot be mastered overnight, nor does it require a high IQ. All it takes is diligent practice. I can guarantee by using the right methods and the right discipline to keep chugging at your school courses every day, the results will be to your satisfaction. Multiple of these study tools can be used for one subject, and maybe you find a different study tool not listed here. It is just important to realize that anyone can master studying, and therefore, dominate any college class that’s thrown their way.

Gayathri is a third-year Biotechnology major and director of the UCD Her Campus Digital Media team. She loves to write, work out, sing, and sleep (college students need more of that nowadays). When not indulging in her boba addiction, she likes to wind down by watching hilarious Youtube vids with a hot cup of tea.