Back in my high school days, not too long ago,
when I would study for tests, I was only so-so.
Sometimes I’d study ‘til my eyes were all red,
‘til every fact and figure was stuck in my head.
And though I thought I had studied more than enough,
on test day I would discover I had studied the wrong stuff!
“Oh darn! What the heck!?” I would scream when I looked through the test.
“Why did I only study East Berlin when I should’ve studied West?”
My first thought was that I should have studied harder—
and I also wished that I had been born so much smarter.
But through trial and I error I have come to realize
my attempts at studying were not very wise.
Because I never had a plan; my method was a mess!
Now, I’m happy say, I’ve found a way to lessen the stress.
When studying feels like a blind walk through the sludge,
I don’t let myself get stuck; instead, I just TRUDGE.
TRUDGE is an acronym—each letter stands for a step—
and each step is necessary for your best study prep.
In order to express its meaning (and due to my limited timing)
I will stall my creativity and quit with the rhyming.
Type of Test: The first step is to understand what kind of test you are going to take. Knowing the type of test—be it an essay test, multiple choice, short answer, matching, or any other method of quizzing—will often help you determine how you should study. Studying for a vocab quiz in Spanish (when flashcards would be a helpful study tool) is going to be much different than studying for an essay test in history (when writing out the relationships between different events on a timeline makes more sense). It is also important to understand what you will be tested on. If not given a study guide by your instructor, you should still be able to figure out what is likely to be on the test by going through your resources (notes, textbooks, syllabus, etc.). One of the best pieces of advice I ever got for studying for a test was to think like the person making the test. If you were testing someone about their knowledge of arithmetic and geometric functions, for example, what kind of questions would you ask to make sure her or she understood the material? Usually the questions you come up with are going to be pretty similar to what you find on the test.
Resources: The next step is to make an inventory of the resources available to you. Start with the basics: notes, textbooks, study guides, old worksheets and quizzes, rubrics. Then look beyond those materials. What kind of resources are there available online for this subject? How could they be helpful for understanding the concepts to be tested? Or maybe there is an expert on the subject within your own home. Would your history buff brother or science star sister be able to give you some advice? Write down everything that might be helpful.
Utilize: Now that you know what you’re working toward and what you’re working with, it is time to figure out how to best use and take advantage of these resources. What kind of information can you expect to find easily in a particular resource? For example, if the teacher has been referencing the textbook’s definitions of certain terms, it is probably wiser to review those definitions than the ones you’d find online and out of context. Also brainstorm the different kinds of useful study tools you could create from the information in each resource. Perhaps the notes you took in class make could be easily turned into flashcards and you can test yourself on key concepts by explaining your teacher’s posted PowerPoints to a friend. Be creative and think about all the most enjoyable ways you could study the materials you have.
Difficulty: At this point in the process, it is important to decide how much of a challenge this test will be. Rate the test’s difficulty on a scale of 1-10 and make sure the importance of the test is a factor in your answer. This is a quick step, but important for the next part.
Guesstimate: Based on the work you’ve already done to understand the type of test you are taking, the resources available to you, your plan for using these resources to study, and the difficulty of the test, figure out how long it will take you to understand the material and be ready. Be generous with your estimations. How long will it take to write out and make those flashcards? How long do you plan on studying those flashcards? Do you need to reread a few chapters of the textbook? How long will it actually take you to not only read those pages but actually understand them? (Obviously this answer will be affected by how much time you actually have to study.)
Establish A Study Plan: Finally—with a full understanding of what is on the test, it’s difficulty, the resources at your disposal, and the time it will take to succeed—it is time to put together an effective plan. This section deserves a thousand blog posts, but here are some good rules of thumb:
- Chunk your study sessions and spread them out over several days in preparation for the test instead of cramming
- Put yourself, both mentally and physically, in a good place to study by studying at a time and place that is free of distraction and conducive to learning
- Give yourself tasks for each study period ahead of time and make sure to bring the materials necessary for that task
Studying for tests, I’m afraid, is always a slog.
(And for more studying tips keep checking this blog!)
But studying can be less stressful if you slow down just a bit
and take time to relax, eat a snack, and plan for it.
So instead of getting down and holding a grudge,
When the next big test comes along, give it a try: TRUDGE!