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How To Study For A Test – The Ultimate Guide

Assuming that you’re not a bot reading this article, I guess that you too, my dear, fortunately, or unfortunately are a student. Chances are, you’ve been procrastinating studying for a test, waiting for the “right time” to start studying, or the right “headspace” as some of you might term it. Or else, you came to this article looking for useful tips to help you study for your upcoming test. Don’t worry, either way, I’ve got you covered.

I think it helps to know why tests exist in the first place. If you were to google the definition of a test, you would come across this sentence- ‘a procedure intended to establish the quality, performance, or reliability of something, especially before it is taken into widespread use.’ It means that tests are essential for a student to know if he/she is ready for the next step, by assessing his/her mistakes, shortcomings as well as strengths.

Why are tests important?

We’ve all been there, taken tests, scored terribly in a test or two, got straight As on some. All of these tests have contributed to our overall development. The anxiety, the adrenaline, all of it only reduces with each step forward. Tests are also mandatory for teachers to track a student’s progress and decide whether or not he/she is ready to face the upcoming challenges. These tests help teachers know where most students face difficulty, and that helps them bring improvement in their teaching methods, making it more tailored for the student.

So whenever you feel frustrated by the upcoming test, remember that tests are indeed useful and not some evil process created to torture students! Let’s take an example. Imagine a world where everybody got a driving license without taking any tests. The number of accidents would be disastrous, right? 

Now that we’ve established the fact that tests are essential and there’s no way you can run away from it let’s talk about what you can do to study for a test with ease. Let’s begin.

Preparing to study for a test

While some may consider this step unnecessary or a waste of time, this is important to set the correct methodology and working environment for studying. 

1. Get All The Information About The Test

Start by assessing whether the test is an MCQ or essay-based, oral or written, etc. to get an outline of what you’re preparing for and what lies ahead. Ask your teacher about the test, the important topics that you should focus on, and have all your inputs ready before you start studying. Once you’re done with that, congratulations! One solid reason to procrastinate is out of your way. 

2. Plan Your Study By Creating A Time Table

Now the next main task is preparing a proper timetable. I know, you’ve probably already made tons of those and shoved them in some corner of your cupboard because it was too hard to keep up with. The key to making a proper timetable that you can follow is not being over-ambitious. Let’s take it slow, one step at a time.

Make one timetable that’s practical and doesn’t intimidate you. Now, there are two kinds of people: the first, that choose to finish up all the difficult tasks first and save the easier chapters for the end. You know, the ones who like to save their favorite dish for the end of the meal. Nothing wrong in planning a timetable this way, but chances are you’ll get intimidated by all the tasks at hand in the beginning and end up back at square one. The second type, the more dangerous of the two, the ones who prefer to finish up with all the lighter chapters first and pile up on the more troublesome chapters and then finally explode one day before the test. The right balance between the two works best.

Another key to creating a time-table that works is to mix up subjects, chapters of various difficulty levels to keep you motivated, else you might end up hating a subject. While making a timetable, give yourself sufficient breaks in between each task. The average human brain can only focus on a particular topic for about half an hour. This is the very reason you have periods in most schools as opposed to continuous learning from morning till your school bus arrives to save the day.

Another tip would be to place your timetable where you can see it. You’ve spent so much time making and decorating that masterpiece after all. Perhaps place it in front of your study table. 

3. Have A Proper Study Place

It is also important to maintain a clean workspace or table to study for a test. All you need is a decluttered workspace, that doesn’t keep changing from one spot to another around the house. Keep the place clean, decorate it according to your taste, anything that motivates you. But remember, keep it minimalistic, avoid anything and everything that’ll distract you in the workspace. If you’re the type of person that goes all extra, you could bring in some indoor plants in your study area, or succulents if you’re like me and can’t take care of plants for the life of you. 

Study tips to prepare for a test

Now that all the warming up is done, let’s get back to studies. Most of you already have a tried and tested method that works for you. If yes, then good for you. If not, don’t worry we’ve got your back. 

1. Work with your learning style

Firstly, identify the type of learner that you are. If you find yourself in this situation often where you’re like “Oh yeah, I remember that answer. It was on the top right corner on that page”, chances are you’re a visual learner. You grasp things that you see very easily and it stays on your mind. If you remember things that you hear, like a particular teacher’s voice repeating a lesson to you, then you’ll come under the category of an auditory learner. If you remember touch, experiences, then you’re a kinesthetic learner.

    1. Visual learners can find making flashcards and highlighting points very helpful. 
    2. It is rather advised that auditory learners stick to reading out loud, repeating, etc. 
    3. You can also try group study sessions as studying with your peers not only makes you strive harder but also increases learning by clearing each other’s doubts. Kinesthetic learners find teaching others very helpful. Find your mom, dad, granny, younger sibling, pet, any soul that you can trick into listening to your lecture. If there’s nobody around, you could also teach the tables and chairs around you. I’m not kidding you, it works. 

2. Space out your study sessions

Start studying early so that you have enough time to space out your study sessions. Research has revealed that spacing out study sessions over a longer period of time improves long-term memory. This means that if you have 12 hours to spend on a subject, it’s better to study it for three hours each week for four weeks than to cram all 12 hours into week four.

3. Avoid jumping to next topic

Study only one topic at a time. For those of us who have a shorter attention span, it might be hard to stick to a topic or a subject. However, learning requires a time commitment. So, resist the urge to shift to a different topic without completing the first and stick to the study time table otherwise you might end up spending too much time and mental energy in shifting gears. 

4. Take healthy breaks

It is very important to take regular breaks in between your study sessions. It is advisable to take healthy breaks like yoga sessions, a nice walk or even just listening to your favorite songs. These breaks will calm you in a stressful time and keep you motivated. 

5. Eat healthily and stay hydrated

It is particularly common amongst teenagers to have a reduced appetite due to exam stress. Some might find themselves stress eating junk food. But, it is very important to eat healthily and stay hydrated during this time. Reduce your coffee and tea by replacing it with herbal teas.

6. Learn to focus better

Mental work, quite like physical work, requires a lot of energy. If you find yourself getting distracted a lot, lacking motivation, procrastinating, know that it’s only human. Here are a few ways you can help yourself focus better.

  1. Keep your phone on silent, or switch it off or keep it far far away from your study table if that’s distracting you.
  2. Set reminders or ask your mother or friend to check up on how much you’ve finished from time to time. That way, you’re held accountable and will make a conscious effort to push through. 
  3. Assign yourself small treats (maybe your favorite chocolate or something) on completion of each task in your timetable. After all of this, you can’t possibly complain about a lack of motivation, can you?
  4.  If you still feel unmotivated, lastly, listen to some good old motivational songs, set up the right mood, don’t overwork yourself. 

Practice and Revise

While in certain subjects like mathematics it is very evident that practice, practice and a lot of practice are what is required to excel, it is only with practice and patience that any subject can be mastered.

  1. Solve Practice Papers

    Once you’ve studied the basics, it is now time to solve previous years’ question papers, mock tests, assignments. I recollect a sentence that my first tutor, my mother once told me- “Practice until you’re so thorough that you can wake up from your sleep and solve the question.” Once you start practicing more questions, you’ll have many more doubts. Make a list of them and clarify with your teacher who I’m sure, would be more than willing to assist you.

  1. Take Practice Tests

    A good way to retain what you learn is to take practice tests. Refer guides from libraries or online that have practice questions and mock tests. Studies have revealed that taking practice tests work better than re-reading or highlighting texts for memorization.

  1. Explain your answers to others

    Once you are done with your studies, do not hesitate to help your peers out. Teaching your friends or clearing their doubts will not only help them but also instill confidence in you that you know the answer. This is also a good way to revise whatever you have already studied.

  1. Revision is the key

    Repeat what you’ve learned every day till the test as revision is the key to learning and scoring well. Go through the flashcards that you’ve made over and over again. Practice diagrams and maps multiple times. Revise the questions that you answered incorrectly on your previous tests. Solve papers keeping the actual time limit of the test in mind. This helps you manage your time better during the test.

    One mistake that a lot of students make while preparing for an exam is neglecting the topics that they find easy. This results in silly errors in the test. So, even if you feel confident about a topic, still go through the key pointers or the key formulae so that you don’t mess up in the exam.

    A day before the test, prepare your strategy for the paper – identify which section to complete first and which last. It’ll be useful to plan on how much time you’ll be giving to each section.

  1. Prepare for a good night’s sleep

    Pack everything that you need for the exam day and prepare it the night before and come to your bed in time to spend some time turning inwards breathing deeply. This will help you relax and sleep well. A good 7 to 9-hour sleep is recommended a day before the exam.

Now that you’ve done practically everything that you could do to ace this test, have faith in yourself. You’re now prepared for your test!

Bonus Section 1: How to improve concentration?

If you struggle with preparing for a test due to a lack of focus and concentration, then this section will be helpful for you. Don’t worry, it takes time to increase your attention span, but you’ll get there. Remember, your brain is just a muscle, and like any other muscle in your body, your brain also requires its own gym time. Strengthening your ability to focus can be done through various activities and mental exercises.

  • Play chess, solve some sudoku, brain-teasers to help improve your attention span and increase concentration. 
  • Prepare a distraction-free environment where you can focus on your task at hand. If you are a person that gets distracted very easily, even something as small as a stapler on your desk can divert your attention. It is advisable to keep your table free of any extra book, stationary or study material that is not being used at the moment. 
  • Another good option would be to turn your desk facing an empty wall or a window, thus concealing all the mess and clutter in your room from the study area. 
  • Divide the tasks into smaller sub-tasks if it helps. Maintain checkboxes next to each topic to analyze your progress. 
  • Lastly, have a dedicated time to attend to all your distractions. This will save the time that you use while fidgeting with the stapler or overthinking in your head. According to a study, on an average 25 minutes are lost in attending to a distraction and in returning back to the original task. You can manage distractions by creating a distraction to-do list in which you can simply keep note down all the tasks that pop up in your head when you’re trying to study.


Bonus Section 2: Memorization techniques to help you prepare for a test

If you tend to forget stuff during the test, don’t fret. Here are some memorizing tips that’ll help you.

  • When you learn, try to assign meaning or a story to each thing. You could try relating what you learn to objects or events around you.
  • Learn the general topics first and then focus on specific details. Getting an overview of the big picture is very important. Study the index if that helps you prep your mind. 
  • Use flashcards, flowcharts, etc. Recite out loud, make a song or a rhyme from the starting letters of the words you need to memorize, make up a story, whatever works for you. 

Lastly remember, don’t be hard on yourself. You got this!

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