How to Study For a Test

Explore the optimal conditions for studying for a test. A peer study group or a tutor may be able to help!


Study Environment

When studying for a test, one of the most important things is to create or find an environment that is good for studying. There are many factors to consider, the most important of which are lighting, noise, and distractions. The optimal lighting for studying is bright white light, as close to daylight as possible. Studying outside, however, is usually not a good idea due to wind, weather, insects, and other distractions. Acceptable levels of noise during studying vary widely from student to student. I would suggest a completely quiet study area; some students, however, do find it useful to have instrumental music on or the buzz of conversation in the background. Some students even claim to study well while watching TV. Although it may be possible to study while the television is on, it is certainly not optimal. Other distractions to be avoided, besides the T.V., are cell phones (texting, games, etc.) and computers (games/Internet). If a student needs to use the computer for studying purposes, he/she will need to be very disciplined in order to stay focused on the relevant material.

Study Location

Studying in the location where the test takes place or an area very similar to it is the best idea. The brain associates the content with whatever is near-by when the content is assimilated. Study in an area with seating, lighting, temperature, and smells similar to those found where the test will be written.

Studying in bed should be avoided as it leads to sleeping.

Study Materials

Do not study using materials you will not have for the test (e.g., a calculator if you will not be allowed to use one). Make sure you find out what you are allowed to have for the test. Is it an open book test? Are you allowed to bring in study notes, any essay outline, etc.? Don’t miss an opportunity to bring in something that would help you, and avoid relying on something you won’t be allowed to use during the test-taking!

While you are studying, make sure use the same materials that you will use during the test. Again, using the same materials (pen, pencil, calculator, etc.) during the test as you did while you were studying will help trigger recall of the content.

Study Groups

It is a great idea to get together with others to study for a test. Studying with others is especially important and useful if you don’t understand the material very well and you have smart, diligent friends! On the other hand, if you know your circle of friends will just fool around, studying with them will be pointless. It is a good idea to make friends with intelligent, studious individuals in your classes so that you will have someone with whom to study.

Test Review Tutoring

Some students find it helpful to go though the test review with a tutor who is knowledgeable in that subject area. The tutor can keep the student motivated to go though the material and can also answer any question that may come up.

© Celesta Thiessen

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