Depending where you live, you're either fresh back to school or so close you're already organizing your binders. And the start of the school year can feel like a bit of a contradiction: Your workload hasn't really started yet, so it seems like a good time to coast. But you're also more motivated than ever to start the year off right.
Well, good news: You can enjoy the best of both worlds! A little bit of preparation can put you on track to absolutely ace all your courses this year – and smart preparation can save you some time to spend chilling with your friends or grinding Fortnite.
Sounds great, right? Here's what to do.
Identify Your Learning Style Early
Everyone's brain is unique. So why do some people treat studying methods as one-size-fits-all? Take a few minutes now to identify your learning style now – so you can find the most effective ways to study ASAP, and avoid any methods that are just a waste of your time.
There are four main learning styles, and virtually everyone is a blend of one or more of them:
- Visual learners learn best from picturing the study materials. Charts, graphs and photographs are your friends when you're a visual learner.
- Auditory learners can pick up concepts quick in class, because they learn best by listening and talking. Podcasts, lectures and other audio materials are the way to go.
- Reading and writing learners have no problems remembering materials from their notes, and retain information well reading from the textbook, too.
- Kinaesthetic learners pick up concepts best with hands-on studying methods, and typically study best with a friend.
So how should you study best? Check out the best study tips for every type of learner, and use our guide as the blueprint for your study plans all year.
Create a Study Schedule
Ok, so you know how to study for your learning style – now, it's time to get used to doing it again. Even if your first test isn't for weeks, getting in the habit of studying now means you'll get the benefit of spaced repetition.
In plain English, it means you'll study the same material over and over as you go through your courses, which science says is one of the best ways to truly learn it. According to the research, just a few minutes of repetition can create long-lasting memories, so you won't need to cram for the final.
So how can you make it work for you? Well, take advantage of your lower workload early in the semester and take 10 to 15 minutes per day to repeat the main concepts you learn in class. You'll get back in the habit of studying – so when your courses do get more demanding, you're not starting from scratch – and set yourself up for easy studying later.
Quiz Yourself 24/7
Spaces repetition is great. But here's the thing – if you're just memorizing the same concepts over and over, you're not getting the most benefit. Sure, you might be able to memorize your notes now – but will you really remember those concepts in four to five months when final exams roll around?
Make sure you truly learn the information by taking advantage of practice quizzes and tests. Quizzes will identify any weak spots early, so you can fix them well before your test dates arrive. And answering a bunch of different types of questions – multiple choice, short answer, essay questions – means you'll learn the integrate and process the information more effectively.
As Colorado State University psychology professor Ed DeLosh explains, quizzing also helps your brain store information as long-term memory. So you're more likely to remember the concepts on test days – and remember them when you've moved on to more advanced courses, too.
Stay Focused with These Science-Backed Tips
Need more help to make the most of your study sessions and test preparation? Check out these resources for more research-backed tips and tricks.
About the Author
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Before launching her writing business, she worked as a TA and tutored students in biology, chemistry, math and physics.