How to Ace a Test: 25 Study Tips

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Are you someone who doesn’t do well on tests? Not sure how to ace a test? Do you draw a blank when the test is handed to you? Are you wondering how to be a better test taker in college or high school? Are you looking for good ways to study for a test?

Regardless of the reason, if you’re reading this article, it means you need to know how to pass a test.  You’re in the right place. This article will give you tips to not only ace your upcoming tests but your future tests as well.

Test-taking can be nerve-wracking. Not only are you faced with the daunting task of taking them, but you are also faced with the reality of what will happen if you don’t do well. In this article, we will give you tips and suggestions for acing your exam and how to become a better test taker. Keep reading for more surefire tips and tricks.

General Study Tips for Acing Your Exams

General Study Tips for Acing Your Exams

General Study Tips for Acing Your Exams

1. Create a study group.  

Creating a study group is a great way to prepare for exams and retain information. Not only do they aid you in learning faster, but they also provide you with the ability to get information in several perspectives.  A small study group is one of the best ways to review for a test.  It is also a way to bridge the gaps between the material you may not know and stuff that someone else does. Study groups also provide a natural and consistent approach to keep up with your course.

2. Teach someone else the material.  

Teaching someone else the content helps not only the other person but you as well.  Tutoring someone or teaching them about some subject forces you to break down and explain steps in depth.  It also forces you to find creative ways to make the other person understand the topic at hand.

3. Use your syllabus to plan your semester.

Most teachers in high school or college provide students with a syllabus or course outline.  This outline generally gives the dates of upcoming exams and material or chapters to be covered.  Use this to get a jump start on studying for exams.  Plan blocks of time to review materials and set up study sessions to ensure you are adequately prepared.  If you find that as you are going through a topic, it is more complicated than you expected, add more study hours to your schedule and stick to it.

4. Create and complete practice exams and questions.  

Practice exams are a great way to prepare for what may be to come.  If you can find practice questions within text or notes or even previous tests use them to prepare for the task ahead.  One way to ensure you aren’t merely memorizing information instead of retaining it is to create your practice exams and questions.  Ensure you are using the information in your notes, study guides, and information provided by your instructor to create the best possible questions.

5. Set a fixed time for studying.  

Having specific study blocks is one of the better ways to study for a test.  If you already have specified blocks to study you won’t have to cram at the last minute and search for time to squeeze in for study breaks since they have already been pre-planned.

6. Create your study guide. 

Use your notes and any information given by your teacher to create a study guide that is tailored to your needs. And learning style.  If you are a visual learner, use imagery to supplement dense wording on your study guide and vice versa.

7. Divide and conquer.

When studying for exams, make sure that you are dividing the broad topics into smaller ones.  For example, if your test is about the civil war, you can create smaller subheadings for things like battles, important people to know, and significant events.

8. Avoid pulling all-nighters.  

Most students tend to stay up all night studying for an exam in hopes that they will retain as much information as possible.  However, sleep is a critical part of making sure you are prepared for your exam. Although you should make sure that you have studied enough, do not forego sleep to do so.  Being tired and unfocused during your test is a sure-fire way to fail.

How to Study for a Test Proactively

How to Study for a Test Proactively to Ace Your Test

How to Study for a Test Proactively to Ace Your Test

9. Keep a running list of key terms and vocabulary.

Each time you start a different section or chapter, start a new list of vocabulary and key terms you should know.  These can be terms outlined in your slides, words emphasized by your instructor or key terms from your textbook.  Write the term and a brief definition for each one.  Continue doing this until you reach the end of your section or chapter.  Once your list is complete use this list to study from before your test to ensure you know all the key terms and information.

10. Take note of the areas where you have trouble. 

As you go through the information in class or during your self-study sessions, make sure that you take note of things and concepts which you do not understand.  In between course sessions, study the material or go to tutoring to ensure you do not let these concepts fall through the cracks.  The better you are at identifying what you don’t understand, the more likely you are to grasp an understanding of the things you don’t understand before your exam.

11. Use color when note-taking. 

Using color is a great way to retain information. If you have purchased your textbook and can write in it, use different colors to keep you on track when studying.  A great rule of thumb is to use yellow for important concepts or topics, green for important names and pink for events. This combination can be altered to fit whatever subject you are studying.

12. Take effective notes. 

Taking practical notes can mean different things for different people.  However, generally, you want to make sure that you are taking notes which are easy to understand, concise, and follow some flow.  You should not merely be rewriting the chapter. Numbering and bulleted lists are also helpful when attempting to retain information. Use the suggestions below to create more effective and easy to follow notes.
     – Cornell Method: The Cornell method helps you to create digestible summaries of information.  In this method, you are dividing your notes into three areas: Cues, Notes, and Summary.   The notes section will be used to take notes while in classes.  The Cues section is used to hold any vocabulary words or study questions. The summary section allows you to highlight the main points of the lecture or topic.
     – Mapping: Mapping is a perfect note taking technique for more visual learners.  In this method, you always start with the main topic.  The overarching theme will be the topic of the lecture, and you will branch off into smaller items as you progress through your lecture. Essential notes should be written under each topic.
     – Outlining: Outlining is the more traditional way of note taking and used when notes require massive amounts of detail.  Each section would start with the main topic with sub-topics underneath it, slightly indented to the right. Once complete, you should see the apparent relationship between items.
     – Charting:  In the charting method, your notes are organized in columns.  Each of your three vertical columns is labeled by category.  This makes your notes easy to review.  When a specific category is mentioned, you will write it down under the specified column.

13. Alternate your study locations. 

Find different places to study that aren’t too noisy and that stimulate your brain.  Studying in a library is a great option, but make sure you are changing your scenery each time.  If you lock yourself in a small study room with minimal windows, it will reflect in the way you study.  Try a coffee shop or workspace to get out of the ordinary.

14. Your first study resource should not be your textbook. 

Although textbooks are a great way to study, it should not be the primary resource you go to.  Professors and teachers provide slides, handouts, and homework assignments, which will be a better gauge of what will be on your exam.  Unless otherwise specified by your professor, your textbook is more of a reference.

How to Study for a Test the Night Before

How to Study for a Test the Night Before to Ace Your Test

How to Study for a Test the Night Before to Ace Your Test

15. Get rid of anything that could pose a distraction.

Living in the digital age can be hard. We often pick up our phones to do simple mundane tasks and get easily distracted for hours. This is the last thing that needs to happen the night before an exam.  Apps and plugins to disable and block notifications and specific content like YouTube and Instagram are a great way to ensure that we are using our time wisely.  Chrome extensions like StayFocusd allow you to restrict the time spent on sites like Facebook and Twitter.  Once the allotted time is used up for the day, the site is blocked and restarts your time the next day.

16. Study with a classmate

If you are at the final hours before an exam study with a classmate.  Many students say this not only helps them to stay focus, but it is beneficial to have someone to bounce ideas off.  You can also quiz each other on critical concepts that you should know.

17. Zero in on the concepts you don’t understand, or the ones that you have determined are the most important.

If you have been adequately studying up until the night before the exam, you will not have to cram to be confident in your abilities.  Use this time to go over things that are still unclear for you and the most important concepts.

18. Never study on your bed. 

Location is everything when you are studying.  Never set up your study area on a bed or a surface that is too relaxed.  You do not want to prematurely fall asleep while attempting to get in last minute studying.

19. Get your sleep.

No matter what anyone says, rest is an essential piece of doing well on an exam.  After 6 to 8 hours of sleep, your mind can rejuvenate, and you can easily recall the information from the day before.

20. Write out your notes

After you have finished highlighting all the key concepts in your textbook, go back through your notes, and write down all the information you previously highlighted.  Writing down the information helps increase the likelihood that you will remember it.    

21. Read your notes aloud.   

After you have finished writing down all the vital information from your textbook, go back through and read that same information aloud. If you recite things or read them while writing them, you are more likely to remember them. This also allows you to make sense of information that you may have previously been struggling with.

Time Management Tips for Studying Effectively

Time Management Tips for Studying Effectively

Time Management Tips for Studying Effectively

22. Use the Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique is a method that was started in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. Many students are adopting this technique for effective studying. All you need to employ this technique is a timer. Pomodoro works by using a timer to break work or studying into 25-minute intervals. A 5-minute break separates each of these intervals. This method follows the notion that the breaks will frequently stimulate you mentally and keep you better focused on the task at hand.

23. Create a study plan.

If you are unfamiliar with what a study plan is, it is an organized schedule which allows you to allocate specific times to specific learning objectives. It will enable you to block off intervals for particular subjects to ensure that nothing is missed. There is no one right way to create a plan as each person’s needs are different. Use these three steps to ensure you are creating an effective study plan.
     – Create a time-based chart of your current commitments. This allows you to see how your day is currently spent and any free or downtime you may have. You will then need to determine the amount of time that you feel you should be studying.
     – Create a schedule.  After you have laid out, all your time commitments place your study times on your schedule.  In each block allocated for studying, you should have a specific course or subject you plan to study. These slots should be treated like a job that you cannot miss, to take your schedule seriously.
     – Create objectives for each study block. Each week on Sunday or Monday night, create specific goals for each of your allotted study blocks.  You should be answering the question of why you need to study.  If your answer is an exam or quiz, you should alter your schedule to incorporate past tests and quizzes. 

24. Prioritize your tasks and courses.  Make sure that you are prioritizing your courses and tasks by importance or by which courses have tests happening the soonest.  Ensuring that your priority is in order is a sure-fire way to make sure that you do not end up cramming right before your exam.

25. Take breaks. 

Although continuous studying may seem like the right thing to do, it is not.  You and your brain need breaks to be able to retain and recall information.  Give yourself 5-10 minute breaks between studying to recharge.  Use this time to grab a snack, listen to a song that gets you motivated or even stretch.  After extended periods of studying, you may also opt to take a 20-minute nap; however, be sure that your breaks do not become the end of your studying.

26. Reward yourself. 

Okay, so this is a bonus tip! After spending copious amounts of time studying, make sure that you are rewarding a job well done.  Reward yourself with snacks or whatever items are important to you and keep you motivated. If you are rewarding yourself with snacks, make sure they are foods that will not make you sleepy or sluggish.  Healthy snacks like grapes, sun chips, or dried fruit can aid in keeping you energized and focused as opposed to French fries or chips. 

If you have come to the end of this article, you should now be equipped with several ways to study better as well as ways to study for your next test, big or small.  These how to ace a test study tips work for college and high school.

Becoming a good test taker is not something that happens overnight.  It is something that must be frequently practiced and altered to fit your specific learning style.  Contrary to the behavior of many high school and college students, pulling an all-nighter is a great way to ensure that you do not ace your exam.  Whether you are looking for tips to help you two weeks before an exam or 2 days, this list has something for everyone.  Although you should study the night before your test, these tips should provide you with ways to study better and get your needed rest.

One important thing to remember is to study the concepts and topics which your instructor has deemed most important.  You are now ready to take on your next exam!

If you found this list of comprehensive exam tips helpful, you may also find our post on how to study for examples helpful as well.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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