How far in advance should I start studying for a test?
You should be studying for the test at the beginning of the semester. Every time you read a text or take notes in class, be thinking, “how will this look on the test?”. Here’s what an optimal study schedule will look like. Study those notes…
- After each class, study the notes for that class within fifteen minutes of walking out the door, maybe while walking to your next class. It’s a great way to maximize your time because we normally don’t get anything productive done while we’re walking between classes. This is the single most important review you will do in terms of total benefit, so don’t skip it!
- Study those notes once again within twenty-four hours; perhaps the next morning in the bus on the way to campus. Again, you’re making use of normally unproductive time. You are also reviewing the info again before it fades from memory. That means less study later on!
- Before each class in a given subject study the last three class-periods’ notes, maybe between class periods while you’re on campus. For example, before my Biology class I would study the notes I took in the last three sessions of that Biology class, as well as notes taken from the readings for those classes.
- Finally, study the cumulative notes for the next test at least once per week.
- If you miss any one of these study times, just study the notes as soon as possible after that time. For example, “I had to be at a meeting this morning, and I missed studying the last three classes’ worth of notes before Biology. Instead, I’ll study them right after lunch today.”
If you do this,
- The study sessions take much less time, because you don’t forget much of it in the first place
- The information goes into your long term memory, meaning less study next semester when you take the second part of the course
- There is no cramming before the test, meaning you are better rested and more confident.
Updated from Sept. 2008 post.