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How to Study
How Can I Build a Study Schedule for My Upcoming Exams?

Our number one piece of advice for studying for exams? Don’t cram! To avoid cramming, you’ll need a study schedule. We’re here to help you build one that works for you.

Once you know when your exam will be, you can start planning out tasks to prepare. Ask your professor whether or not the exam will be cumulative. This way, you’ll know whether studying old exams will be useful or not. To get the grade you want, you should:

  1. Learn (or relearn) material that you don’t know
  2. Ensure you can apply what you have learned

Let’s start with step 1. For a biology test, you might know the Krebs cycle like the back of your hand, but you might be shaky on the stages of mitosis. In order to sharply identify your weak areas, review your notes as well as previous evaluations, like quizzes and other exams. Make a list of questions you got wrong and concepts you find confusing.

You may already be using the Cornell method to take notes. This note-taking method is a great way to keep track of what you don’t know by writing questions in the margins. If you don’t use this method, you might try typing up your notes and adding questions as you prepare. Writing and rewriting your notes will help you identify weak areas, and solidify your memory of material you already know. Once you’ve identified your weak areas, it’s time to study up. This might entail rereading a chapter of your textbook, or bringing your questions to office hours.

Now, let’s tackle step 2. Many students study by reading their notes. But this method is often too passive. You will see plenty of material that you are familiar with. But the most important thing to remember is that the goal is to ensure you can apply your knowledge of the material, not just recognize it. To see if you can apply what you’ve learned, try testing yourself.

  • For an English exam, see if you can write clearly about key passages from the text without looking at your notes.
  • For a chemistry exam, see if you can complete problems you got wrong without looking at the answer.
  • You should also retry problems that you got right! You may be familiar with how to do the problem, but until you practice them again, you can’t be sure you can apply what you know. You will be surprised how easy it is to forget the steps of an answer to a chemistry problem, even if it looks familiar.

There are many different tasks that will help you complete steps 1 and 2. Choose a few below and then pick a day and time this week that you plan to complete these tasks.

  • Make a list of the problems you got wrong on previous quizzes and exams
  • Type up your notes and jot down questions about the material
  • Email your professor or T.A. one question you have about the material. Avoid sending a Yes or No question or a question answered by your syllabus.
  • Go to office hours and bring your questions. Professors are most helpful when you can show them where you are stuck, instead of asking them to explain something from scratch.
  • Summarize each of the readings in a few paragraphs.
  • Add your own!

Once you’ve chosen some suggestions, download this template and add them to a day before your exam.

Mike Lodato

Mike Lodato

Chipper Team Member & PhD Student