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How to study for a test or exam

The Association for Psychological Science investigated the 10 most commonly used study techniques. What turns out to be the most effective? The techniques we use the most are often the least effective. Here are 6 tips for studying well:

1. Don’t waste time highlighting and underlining – It’s best to highlight a number of terms for a brief review later, but a lot of highlighting doesn’t help you remember. Underlining could even distract you and it would be more difficult later on to remember the relationships between the terms.

2. Reading a text again does not help – Reading again is an insidious study technique. It is specifically the first time that you read something that you seem to absorb a lot of information from the text. After that, you read while thinking “I already know this”, giving you the illusion that you’ve mastered the material. Memory research shows that students do not know the material better after re-reading than after reading it once. The best advice is to spread the material over time.

3. Ask yourself questions – Read the material and then ask yourself questions, even if you don’t know the answer yet. You commit yourself to actively looking for the information to answer the question and therefore you remember the material better. What’s more, you’ll really notice which questions you can already answer and which you can’t, and what you still have to work on. Another tip: write questions on cards and ask them to yourself, in between study sessions

4. Restructure the material – If you are actively involved with the information, the information will stick better in the memory. Re-reading notes is of little use, it’s better to reorganise your notes and then do something with them. Make connections in your head or add extra information to your notes. For example, create a mind map

5. Do not procrastinate and study at intervals – Putting off studying until the last moment and then cramming right up until the test or exam is a bad idea. It’s better to study at intervals well in advance so that the material ends up in the long-term memory. Spread studying out instead of cramming it all in one session right before the exam.

6. Sleep well – Sleep is essential for memory. New connections between brain cells (synapses) are made during sleep, so sleep is one of the foundations for remembering information. Even short naps here and there help