7 Senior Level Study Tips for College Freshmen with BONUS PRO TIP

Transitioning to college is definitely a memorable time in life.  Campus life is very exciting… new experiences and many people to meet, late night dorm room shenanigans and campus events.  But, there is also this thing called studying.  Remember, the whole reason you (supposedly) went to college in the first place?  While you may be transitioning quite well outside of your studies (sure it wasn’t you who put bubble wrap underneath all of the third floor doormats…), learning to keep up in the fast paced university classroom may be a different thing.  Below are 7 Senior level tips to acing that first midterm!

1. Study Buddy

Let’s face it; studying can be boring and tedious sometimes.  Liven up your study time by studying with a friend or a small group from class.  Studying with other people can be extremely helpful.  You can compare notes to be sure that you didn’t miss anything.  You can discuss the course material to get a different viewpoint or understanding of the material.  And, you can help each other stay on task.  Plus, it is just more fun to have a friend.  This is especially helpful when studying for a test or completing a difficult homework set.  WARNING!  As great as it is to study with others, be very careful about who you choose to study with.  You will want a study partner that is serious about the course and willing to bring their own input to the session.  Don’t study with someone who just wants you to put in the work for them!  Ultimately, a good study partner can be an invaluable help, but choose wisely.

2. Don’t Study EVERYTHING

One of the biggest mistakes freshmen make when studying for their first college tests is trying to study ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.  You simply cannot study everything.  Focus on the material that will be on THIS test or assignment.  Listen carefully in class and write down any information your professor gives you on what the test will cover.  If you aren’t sure, ASK your professor in person after class or during office hours.  Study ONLY that material for the test.  Getting excellent grades in college is often not about how much you know.  Make sure you know what is on the test, and then make sure you know that.

3. Study Your Professor’s Style

Every professor is different.  They all have different opinions, methods, preferences, and beliefs.  For you, this means that each one will grade your work differently.  If given the same assignment from two different professors, your work may receive an A from one and a D from another.  This may seem crazy (and frustrating!) to a college freshman, but almost every college senior or recent graduate will tell you the same thing. Figure out where your professor likes to pull questions for his or her tests.  Be aware of any particular formatting or presentation preferences of that professor.  Learn how to get partial credit for answers instead of no credit.  PRO TIP:  Talk to students who have had that professor before – most likely they will be able to tell you exactly what is on and how to study for that professors tests/assignments.

4. Carefully Select Study Materials

Not all study materials are created equally.  Some are very useful and some are less useful.  This plays into knowing the professor’s style and contents of the test/assignment as well.  For example, if your professor pulls all of their test questions from previous homework problems, then it is a no-brainer… ONLY study your previous homework problems (hopefully you did them!).  It may not always be that straightforward, but you can get the idea.  Choose the material that will give you the most bang for your buck to study first, then use the other materials to supplement.  Ask yourself, ‘what is the best source of information that is complete enough but also concise?’  Consider your class notes, book, handouts, homework, etc.  Be choosy in what you study; make the most of your time!

5. Practice Testing

You wouldn’t step onto the sports field without running drills or get up on stage without learning the song first would you?  Practice is essential to getting excellent grades.  Practice taking tests before the real thing.  Be sure to simulate the type of test, the environment of the test, and the time of the test.  All of these things matter!  For example, a lot of college classrooms, especially old ones, have desks with extremely small writing tables.  This alone is enough to distract you such that your grade is negatively affected!  Or, you may be able to complete all of the problems on the test perfectly, but can you do it in the time granted to take the test?  When you feel like you have studied enough, set up a practice test for yourself.  You will be surprised how confident you feel during your real test.

6. Develop A Study Plan

Once you’ve figured out what will be on the test and what materials are the best to study, lay out a plan for yourself to study all that is necessary.  Determine when you are going to study and what.  This really helps you to stay on track and not get distracted.  This will also help you know when you are nearing the end of studying for a test.  Completing your study plan before a test will give you a great confidence boost going into it.  Double check that your plan includes everything that will be covered on the test though!

7. Be The Professor

One of the best ways to learn material is to teach it.  There is a greater level of understanding needed in order to teach something.  While trying to figure out how to teach your study buddy acids and bases for Chemistry, you in turn will learn acids and bases forward and back.  It really works well.  Take turns with your study partner to teach each other different portions of the material for the test.  If you don’t have a study partner from that class, try ‘teaching yourself’.  Start from the beginning of a concept and talk yourself through its entirety.  This will force you to figure out where everything comes from and how it fits together.

BONUS PRO TIP:  For tests that require you to solve problems, like math and chemistry, you can often get some partial credit for problems that you are not sure how to complete.  If you know how to start a problem but not sure how to finish it, just start the problem and make it as far as you can.  Then, write your professor a note explaining where you are getting stuck and why.  Or, if you complete a problem but you know your answer is wrong, write your professor a note that you think your answer is wrong and why you think that.  Some professors will reward your effort and your ability to see where you might be getting derailed.  Other professors could care less, but you never know until you try!

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