BASIX: This section is designed for the study newbie. Sure, you’ve been at school for years, but that doesn’t mean you’ve been doing it properly. Get up to scratch here.
Tell the truth, how long before a test do you start studying for it? When you first find out, a fortnight before, in the week leading up to, or in the early hours of the morning before you sit down to take the test? None of these are good enough for long-term retention of the material.
What you study, how you study and how often your repeat it will definitely impact your performance under pressure. I’m not saying that studying is the end-all and be-all of test taking, and you should definitely check out Three Important Factors in Taking Tests, from Study Successful. It’s a great resource if you’re worried about your game-day performance.
So when’s the best time to start studying? As soon as you learn the material. At the end of each day, or lesson, if you are afforded the luxury, it is important to review, however briefly, the material covered in class. This is the first step in learning your material over time.
It is well-known the cramming is not the best way to learn new material. This is because the material isn’t reviewed after a longer period of time that a few days. In this case, answering questions becomes recalling information from your short-term memory, rather than the long-term. While it may be easier to take information from the thoughts that are placed on the desk, those found in the storage cabinet will become easier to find over time, so to speak.
Information needs to be reviewed frequently, but how often? Many students, teachers and academics following this schedule: review after five minutes, 24 hours, seven days, 30 days, and 120 days. This is best suited to longer topics. If you are beginning a topic, and the test is in six weeks, you may wish to alter the schedule to something like review after five minutes, 18 hours, five days, 20 days and 42 days. Like all techniques, you need to find out what best suits you and your situation.
Just to be clear, I’m not urging you to use this method for all your tests. For example, I would use it for a Maths test, because topics are usually related to one another. But I would always cram for a Vietnamese test. This isn’t because I think the subject is stupid, or boring, but because the way the class is taught, only the basics need to be memorised, and because I won’t continue the subject further than at a beginners level. It’s pretty much user-discretion so make your own judgment call.
What do you think? Don’t be shy, let us know in the comments.