How to Get Good Grades in College: How to Study for Exams

How to Get Good Grades in College: How to Study for Exams

College is a lot different from high school. Most of what you are tested on is not covered in class, and it is up to you to read your textbook and learn the material. Because college courses usually only meet twice, maybe three times a week, and classes only last a semester, not everything will be talked about in lectures.

There is definitely a period of adjustment, but developing good habits is important for success later on. Here are the most helpful study tips I’ve gathered this semester:

  1. Write down all dates from the syllabus: At the beginning of the semester, you will receive a syllabus or course calendar with all due dates indicated for you. I recommend sitting down and writing them all on your own calendar. Check that calendar regularly and you will never be surprised by a due date or exam.
  2. Find a good study space: Studying with your friends or in the comfort of your room might sound preferable, but find a place on campus where you know you can get work done. I know some people like to study with music or noise in the background, but if you’re like me, you might want silence. In that case, I would suggest the library. There are even rooms where you’re not allowed to talk at all.
  3. Use the study guide: That is, if you’re lucky enough to even get one. If your professor posts a study guide, I would go over every point and look it up in your notes or textbook. I like to write all the answers to study guide questions in a Google doc and I use it to study for the exam. It takes a lot of time, but ever since I started doing this I have gotten really good scores on exams (only missing one or two questions each test).
  4. Ask questions if you have them: You don’t necessarily have to raise your hand in class, but don’t be afraid to approach your professor during office hours or send an email. If something is unclear, it’s good to ask.
  5. Be an active learner: This is by far the biggest leap you’ll have to make from high school to college. Your classes are harder, and if you zone out in class or while reading your textbook, you might not do well on your exams. Take notes during class and while you read your textbook. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but you’ll be glad you did this when you don’t have to re-read the chapter three times. It will help keep you engaged and you’ll be more likely to remember things for your test.
  6. Color code: Colors help your brain remember things. In my planner, I highlight exams in pink, due dates in yellow, and appointments in orange. When I create my study guides, I use specific colors for definitions, important facts, etc. If you’re a visual learner, this doesn’t hurt to try.
  7. Record your lectures: If you’re an auditory learner, ask permission to record your lectures so you can listen to them later on. It can help you recall information you might have missed during class, and you can use it to help you study.
  8. Go on study dates/have a study group: I found studying for exams with friends to be extremely helpful. I recommend studying on your own as much as you can, and maybe a day or two before the test, get together with some classmates and go over everything together. It will give you a chance to clarify points you are confused on, and it will force you to get out and socialize.
  9. Take notes by hand: When you write things down, it is more likely to stick in your brain than typing it. Now, for bigger assignments it’s probably easier to type, but if you’re summarizing your notes into an outline, consider writing it by hand.
  10. Manage your time: I took AP classes in high school, worked a full-time job on top of classes this semester, and I have never had to pull an all-nighter studying. I say that because if you don’t procrastinate and stay on top of your work, there is no reason you shouldn’t have time to sleep or exercise or see your friends. Find a routine that works for you and stick with it.

I hope these tips were helpful for you. Good luck on your exams! Thanks for reading. 🙂


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