“All right. Ready to drive?” That was not a question I was expecting 20 minutes into my first driving lesson. I had never actually driven before. Somehow, “Sure,” came out of my mouth.
I had no idea what I was doing. So, I faked it as best I could. Have you ever been told to do something that you had no idea how to do? And then just tried to fumble your way through? (Please tell me I’m not the only one!)
Over the years, I have discovered that many high schoolers don’t know what it means to “study”.Many high school students don’t know what it means to “study” Click To Tweet So, they improvise. They reread the textbook (waste of time!) or they look over their notes a few times (not nearly enough time!) When they perform poorly on a test, they are stumped how to improve.
Today, I am going to breakdown actual study techniques. What to do, when to do it, and for how long. Grab the FREE reference guide I created for you! Print it off and put in your (or your teen’s) study space for easy access.
I recommend mixing and matching the techniques below. Try 2-3 new techniques for your next test and see if there is any improvement. If there isn’t any, try other strategies from the list until you find ones that work the best for you!
Rewrite or refresh notes
If you’re not already, you NEED to refresh or rewrite your notes, preferably on the day you take them. Why? Research has shown that if you review notes within 24 hours of learning new information, you are 60% more likely to remember that information. Sixty percent! That is no joke.Reviewing notes within 24 hours increases retention by 60%! Click To Tweet
If your notes are mess, rewrite them. I personally use outline notes; if my outline is out of whack I will rewrite it. However, for most people, simply “refreshing” them is a better use of time.
Go back to the notes you took earlier and highlight or underline key information. BUT, don’t highlight everything! Consider color coding: red for vocabulary, green for concepts or theories, yellow for people, etc. Make a color code key and stick to it across all your classes.
Add small drawings to your notes that reflect the information. (Even if you can’t draw well, like me.) WHY? Many people are visual thinkers and the images will help you understand better. Also, you might forget the words on the page, but can remember the pictures you drew.
Annotate your notes – write questions or comments in the margins. If you use Cornell notes, you already have a space to do this. They could be questions for your teacher about the content, connections between this content and earlier information you learned, or questions you can use to review later.
Summarize – Under your notes, write 1-3 sentences summarizing the big idea in the notes.
Time Frame: 10-15 minutes to refresh notes. Study from your notes for 15-30 minutes nightly for at least a week before your test.
I still know the colors of the light spectrum years after I learned them. Why? The acronym ROY G. BIV. Our minds can more easily memorize silly sentences or acronyms than a long list of words or objects. Create your own acronyms or silly sentences when you just have to memorize facts. Some of my students were amazing at this and blew me away!
Time Frame: 10-15 minutes to create. Put them in your notes and review nightly for at least one week.
A classic; helpful AFTER you have learned the basics. I don’t recommend flashcards to learn new material, especially abstract concepts. Flashcards work really well for learning vocabulary, people and place names, formulas, and math facts. You can create them yourself or make them electronically using a site like Quizlet. There are thousands of lists on Quizlet – someone has probably already created flashcards for your study topic.
This is an easy way to study that can be squeezed in around other activities – on the bus, waiting to be picked up, or right before or after another event. Be sure to grab my dos and don’t for making and using flashcards before starting, though!
Time Frame: Review flashcards daily for 10 minutes for least one week before your test.
Create your own test questions
Based on your notes, try your hand at writing you own quiz. Try different types of questions and then quiz yourself or others. (Keep in mind the types of questions your teacher asks.) You can create this on paper or electronically. My AP Gov’t students made excellent Kahoot! games that we used to review.
Time Frame: 15 minutes to create. Use your own test as a study guide daily for a least a week before your test.
Talk it Out
This is one of my favorite suggestions! Most times when I study, I work silently. However, when you talk out loud (even to yourself) your brain processes the information differently. You can make new discoveries or have “a-ha” moments you wouldn’t have otherwise. Try to explain the topic to someone else. If you don’t know or understand enough, you won’t be able to get the words out. That’s a huge sign that you need to study more. And it doesn’t matter who you are talking to – your parents, a friend, or even the dog.
Time Frame: Try this for 10-15 minutes every other day in the week leading up to your test.
I’ve mentioned the use of study groups before. They are awesome because you can split the workload (someone creates a quiz, while someone else creates flashcards) and it automatically gives you someone to talk it out with. My only warning – pick your study group carefully. If your best friend is not known for completing her portion of work in group projects, you may not want to invite her in your study group.If your best friend is not dependable, you may not want her in your study group. Click To Tweet
Time Frame: Around 10 days before the test, split up the work. Meet 1 week before the test to share what each person created. Meet again 1-2 days before the test for a final group review.
Luckily, on that day loooooong ago, I managed to not kill anyone in the car, mainly because my instructor had her own brake. Over the new few weeks, I learned how to actually drive.
Try 2-3 of these techniques for your next test and let me know how it goes in the comments or on FB or Instagram! And grab the reference guide before you leave – click the button below!
For more ideas about studying, check out my Study Skills Pinterest board.