Will This Study Strategy Boost My Test Grade?
“So, that sounds interesting. Do you think that study strategy will work for me? Will it help me do better on my next test?”
I’d just spent 5 minutes explaining a study strategy to a new tutoring client. Understandably, he got down to brass tacks – is this worth trying?
In a perfect world, I could tell him yes or no. But if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a really imperfect world.
My honest answer – “I don’t know.” Followed by a groan from my student.
I know, I know – it’s super frustrating that I don’t have a definitive answer. But studying is super individualized because all our brains work differently. Strategies that work for me may not work for you. It takes actually trying out study strategies to see if they work.
Will This Study Strategy Work for Me?
How to Guess if a Study Strategy will Work
While I may not be able to tell you right away whether a study strategy will work for you, there are some clues that may at least narrow down the possibilities.
Many old school (read: not good) study strategies are passive. You reread your notes or (even worse) the textbook. We know that’s just a waste of time. Instead, you want to look for study strategies that require your brain or body to take an active role.
Refreshing your notes or writing your own study guide requires you to interact with the information and create something new. That requires a lot of thinking, filtering of information, and high-end connections to be made in your brain. That is stuff that you will remember on the test.
I’ve said this before – our bodies are not meant to sit still for long periods of time. Studies have shown that physical activity right before, during, or after studying helps you retain information better. That might mean taking a quick run before or switching up your study space during study time.
Look for study strategies that are active, mentally or physically. If you have a ton of energy, hone in on those movement-related strategies. Either alone or together, they will help you remember more information and ace your test!
Visual vs. Verbal
Some of us think in visuals and some think in words. Let me tell you, I was a grown adult when I discovered that other people thought in pictures. I think in words and pretty much solely words – I see the words flash across my brain right before I say or think them. It explained to me why some of my study suggestions just didn’t work for my students.
If you’re a visual thinker, focus on the study strategies that contain pictures or visual components. If you’re a verbal thinker, look for strategies that are word-based. Play to your strengths, yo.
How to Use a New Study Strategy
Find some study strategies (start here and here) and spend some time reading through them. Pick two that you think might work for you and start implementing them. Like really implementing them, not just halfway.
And keep using them for at least 1 month. Yes, an entire month. At the end of the month, evaluate them. Ask yourself some questions:
- Did my grades improve?
- Did my anxiety level decrease?
- Am I feeling more prepared?
If you answered yes to at least 2 of these, keep the strategy. If not, put it to the side and try another strategy. You may find that some strategies work better in some courses than others just based on the content. You may also find that you change strategies over time. All of that is totally normal.
While I can’t give you a sweet list of all the study strategies that are perfect for you, I hope this helps you select a few that might work. Remember, if the first one isn’t that great, there are plenty more to try! Just keep going!