But, the date you begin studying and how you study can make all the difference between a stressed-out week and excited confidence for the exam. So, when should you start studying for the upcoming test?
Chip Away Strategy
My strategy, and one used by many other successful and not stressed students, is called the Chip Away Strategy (I’m the only one I know who titles it this way). This strategy focuses on breaking down all the necessary test information into daily, manageable chunks of study time—to mentally chip away at the exam. And to answer my previous question, you should start studying by this method a week in advance.
You might be upset and think it is ridiculous to study all night for a week straight. Because that would be insane if you think of studying as three coffees, a Red Bull, and three hours of sleep. Instead, I want you to think of studying in a different way, like a normal activity that is necessary, but not torture. If you prepare a week in advance, you don’t need to, and shouldn’t, study more than three hours a day.
How To Study This Way
Day 1) Spend the first day gathering all your materials needed for the exam. Don’t spend more than one hour doing this activity. The purpose of day one is to get started and build momentum for the rest of the week, not burn out.
Day 2) Transfer your materials into a study guide that covers all the possible concepts that you could be tested on. This process will help you notice areas where your understanding is foggy, and help your familiarity with the material.
It could be as easy as transferring your notes from a notebook to a stapled packet. Or it could be harder, like if you missed class and need a classmate’s notes, or want to add on clarity to your notes.
This will probably be the longest day, but not more than three hours.
Day 3) Focus on the concepts that you don’t understand or vaguely remember. If you went through your materials and are not confident you fully understand some ideas, I recommend that you talk to your professor or a classmate that you trust. They will most likely be happy to help.
This preparation could take one to two hours.
Day 4, 5, 6) Spend two hours each day doing a comprehensive run through of your study guide. Quiz yourself and speak your answers out loud. The next day, quiz yourself and write down your answers. If you’re right, then move on. If you’re wrong, then go back until you get it right.
And when you’re checking, make sure you fully understand the concept. It’s easy to cheat yourself by remembering the answer because you just saw it, rather than grasping the content.
Day 7) I recommend little or no preparation on exam day. If you’re nervous and want to be safe, look over the hard concepts that you were unclear about in the beginning of your preparation. You want to go into the exam feeling fresh and confident. Let your preparation takeover, you already put in the work.
Say Goodbye To The All-Nighter
After this preparation, you’ll have a big advantage over your classmates, especially those who only studied the night before. There are multiple reasons why an all-nighter isn’t as effective.
First, you wouldn’t come close to covering everything in one night compared to a week’s time. You would have blind spots in the material that you hope the test doesn’t cover. Next, you just fried your brain hours before you need to use it to remember all the information on the exam. I’ve talked about how the brain needs time to recover. So, you’re going into the test without understanding all the material and a dazed brain. How are you supposed to get an A?
Plus, no one enjoys putting themselves through a whole night of crammed studying and anxiety. And, the next day or two is usually wasted in large amounts of sleep where your body recovers. If you’re still not convinced, the negative health effects may be the worst part of your late-night study binge.
Study Smarter And You Will Be Rewarded
Avoid stressing out all week, being miserable during the test, and worrying until the grade is released. Take your studying day-to-day for one week, chip away at each concept, and you’ll be ready to dominate the exam. You’ll feel better during the study process and you’ll put yourself on pace to achieve a high GPA. By studying this way, you can get rid of one of the most stressful and anxious aspects of college.
Remember that being prepared for an exam and executing are two different things. So after you’ve studied efficiently, get a refreshed on these dumb exam mistakes to do your best test taking.