What NOT to Do:
The following strategies have been shown by researchers to be ineffective (people using them don't do much better than people who hadn't studied at all), so DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME ON THEM.
- Re-reading your textbook. Skimming over previously read passages of your text is a terrible way to study, in part because 1.) it is time-consuming, 2.) you don't actually retain any more info after doing this, and 3.) (even worse) it fosters the "illusion of mastery," which leads to WORSE performance. For example, you may think you "know" something just because you think to yourself, "oh, sure, that seems familiar," when actually you aren't able to answer questions about it correctly. Of course, this tip assumes you read the textbook the first time. Also, note that there is nothing wrong with looking up a specific topic that you don't understand in order to get a question clarified or answered. Just avoid passive re-reading of whole chapters (or the whole book).
- Highlighting stuff in your notes. While it sure makes stuff look pretty, there is little processing going on when you highlight terms or ideas in your notes. Since memory is the product of thinking about something, you're better off doing something that forces you to think about the material.
- Distributed Practice. You may remember this being called "the spacing effect" in your textbook. Spacing out study of your material, rather than planning one giant cram session, leads to better memory. In fact spacing is most powerful once a little "forgetting" has set in. So, study a topic until you feel you've "got it," then come back to it in a day or two and quiz yourself. This strategy can also be a time-saver, since less overall time is needed to achieve the same result as cramming. However, it takes more planning, which is the hard part.
- Retrieval Practice or Self-Testing. There is NO BETTER way to prepare yourself for a test than to practice pulling information from memory. There are LOTS of online tools to help you do this, and I've included some of them below.
- Use what you've learned this year about memory! If you are continuously stumbling over the same term, researcher name, or list of things you need to recall, use encoding strategies to help you! Mnemonics, acronyms, chunking, and DEEP PROCESSING/ELABORATIVE REHEARSAL (thinking about connections between course concepts and what you already know.
So...where do I start?
- Take a practice test. This will help you identify areas of strength and weakness and provide you with feedback about how "far" you have to go yet to achieve mastery. If you haven't already taken advantage of a weekend practice exam, here are some options to get you started:
- There are online full-length practice tests available for free.
- Others will provide you with some free content, but charge for full-length versions.
- The College Board also has publicly released two previously given tests, and you could print these for your own practice: the 1999 Released Exam and the 1994 Released Exam. Granted, these are pretty old, but they still aren't bad for practice purposes.
- Write in "Study Time" on your calendar, and the topic you plan to work on each day.
- Plan to review your weakest areas more than once. You may need to go back and watch a video about a topic that is particularly confusing before testing yourself on it again. Some more tricky topics are explained here, too.
- Brush up on the vocab for a topic by using Quizlet flashcards.
- Then, try out some practice multiple choice questions on a topic that has been troublesome.
- Review Famous Psychologists to help practice many different areas of the course. Can you identify how these people are similar to each other? Different?
- Use the "combine sets" feature on Quizlet to study multiple topic areas at once.
- Study with a friend: take turns quizzing each other on major course topics (using flashcards or term lists).