You have an exam coming up. Do you start at one end of the library and read your way to the other end? Not if you’re a normal person, you don’t. Who has time for that! Most people don’t even read their textbook from cover to cover when studying for an exam, let alone a whole library of books. That’s the first study skill – don’t plan to read every book in the library! Come to that, don’t even plan to read your entire textbook either. If your exam requires you to have read a certain literary masterpiece, you can certainly read it for enjoyment. For an exam, shorten the process to reading an abridged version, or a detailed review of it. You’ll remember far more of that then you likely will of the full version.
Buy 2nd hand textbooks. If some of them are in near mint condition, it’ll be because the student who owned them last didn’t need to use them. That’s a telling clue when it comes to removing unnecessary studying. It also works in reverse – stuff that’s underlined or looks well studied is probably stuff that you need to know too.
Work out when you work best, and when you hate studying. If you don’t study well at night with a tired brain, or hate studying during the middle of the day, don’t plan to study during those times. It’ll be an unproductive waste of your time. Work out how you work best. Do you prefer silence, or background music? Does the dog hanging around wanting a pat annoy you, or do find their presence soothing?
Draw up a study calendar. Work out which subjects you’ll study on what days leading up to the exam. Avoid allocating study to those times you don’t work well. Realistically, a well planned 50 hours of study time that you can stick with is worth more than 50 hours of haphazard, ‘all over the place’ study.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t still study on the day of the test. This is the perfect time to study those last minute little things like dates, formula, and other things that slip out of your memory after about 10 minutes or so. This is using your short-term memory. As soon as you’re allowed to start writing in the exam room, write down all those last minute things you just learned. If you need them, you’ll have them at your fingertips. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter if you forget them.
If there are multiple-choice questions, and you’re not sure of some of the answers, skip those ones for the moment. Most exam papers will have a related question somewhere else that will give you enough clues to answer them later.
Finally, check out previous versions of the test. Most college and university libraries file them somewhere. Sort them into date order, oldest on top, and start a spreadsheet that lists the dates of each test, and which subjects are covered. It won’t take you long to see what topics are included every year, and are therefore ‘must studies’. Make these your priority topics to study. Then move onto the ones that have been included most years. You’ll also see if any subjects suddenly stopped being included. That’s a good clue the person writing the exam moved on. Of course, if you’re studying for your Fire Officer test or a similar fire services certification, you can always order a copy of a formal Fire Officer test prep, and save yourself a lot of time, and unnecessary study.