After being a student for 16 years and graduating from Grand Canyon University in December with my bachelor’s degree, it is a given that I have had to take quite a few tests in my lifetime. These exams have taken so many different forms, including multiple choice, fill in the blank, short essay, true/false, etc., and have covered countless chapters of different subjects. As a rare blessing, I have actually enjoyed school and done well in my classes, not because I am brilliant or even that smart, but because I have worked hard and learned how to study effectively.
As a current or future GCU student, here are a few tips for studying in college that I picked up during my journey in the Colangelo College of Business that I hope will help in your studies:
Get to Know Your Teacher’s Style
Each professor you encounter during your time at GCU will be different and have a unique teaching style. Some professors stress reading the textbook for detailed definitions and factual information, while others focus on real-life application and focus more on foundational understandings of general concepts.
In my experience, it does not take long to figure out if your professor stresses the details or looks at the broader picture when grading your tests and papers, but it is key to tailor your work to their expectations. Most professors will even clarify in advance specifically what they are looking for in your assignments.
Listen for Exam Preparation Instructions
When preparing for a midterm, final or just another chapter test, professors will tell you how to succeed. It is important to know if the upcoming test is based on the verbal lecture, PowerPoints or textbook. This is perhaps the most crucial step for success because if you study a professor’s PowerPoint lectures alone when the test is based on the textbook, you will not have all of the information that you need.
It does get more difficult when a test is based on both in-class lecture and the textbook, but in these cases I have found it is best to study the textbook as first priority because you will most likely be able to recall the lecture questions simply based on your time spent in class.
Develop a Study Plan
A plan may sound a bit cliché, but it will actually save you time and help you feel more confident entering into a test. Gather what you know about the test, such as which chapters it covers, what form the questions will take and the source material, in order to determine what information you will need. Then, look at your week and the time that you have and determine what information is most crucial to know and budget your time accordingly. You will not have time to read the text word for word, so determine the key concepts and definitions from each chapter and devote time to knowing those.
Remember Practice Makes Perfect
In studying, as with any skill, practice and repetition are crucial for memory and mastery. My dad always used to tell me it takes three times to learn something new. When you plan time to study, keep this in mind. It will take a general exposure to material and a conscious act of recollection, correction and finalization of what you know before you will actually learn it. In this way, even if you take a broad stroke at studying chapters at first, always be sure to review the key concepts a few times to check your understanding.
Take a Breath and Do Your Best!
In the end, it is just a test. During college you will have to make many opportunity cost decisions as you decide where to budget your time, whether it’s between friends, sports, sleep, studying or work. Prepare to the best of your ability and always be ready to adapt your study habits in order to do your best on each exam. Let go of the rest! In my experience, “best” will change depending on life circumstances, but if you know in your heart you did all that you could, there will be no regrets.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.