I need help with the best way to study!

A week from today, I have a big accounting test and a week from tomorrow, I have a big calc test, and a week from friday, I have a big Humanities test. I am freaking out because they are all piled on? Is it possible to do well on all of them?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve attended every class, taken notes and paid attention, but outside of Accounting, I’ve done no studying. I’ve been busy trying to understand Calc. What is the best way to approach this, and is there enough time for me to get a good grade on these tests, specifically my Accounting? Really worried.

@Mikeb1123 from my experience at least, most classes usually post at least one practice test, either a practice test or from a previous semester. If your classes do that, you should do the practice tests.

For calculus or other subjects you don’t fully understand, try to attend office hours/tutoring if available. Or reread the course notes.

Practice problems. Lots of them. It will help you know what you need to review more thoroughly, and for subjects like Calc (maybe accounting?), it will make doing certain types of problems automatic because you’ve done so many problems of the same type. On a related note, try to ask yourself questions that might be on the exams in your more concept-based classes. Be able to define important terms, know the major characters and themes to readings, etc.

For problem-solving classes, your goal is that no type of problem will catch you off-guard, because you’ve either done a similar problem before or you know how to break it down into problems you’ve done before. For concept-based courses, your goal is to thoroughly understand the major concepts, why they’re important, how they’re related, etc. Knowing facts and details is important too, but especially for essay questions, you’re more likely to be tested on the core concepts.

For major Calculus exams, I always went through old homework problems to see the different “types”/“varieties” of problems that I needed to understand how to solve. I took very detailed notes on the explanations given in the book so that I could understand the overarching concept (say, what a derivative actually is) followed by step-by-step explanations on how to derive trig functions, polynomials, etc with specific problems worked out. In order to be prepared for a math exam, you have to make sure that nothing is “fuzzy” and that you can tackle anything thrown your way. Some professors assign exam problems that are strikingly similar to homework problems – other professors aren’t so kind, lol.

For humanities exams, it depends on the exam set up. An intro level History course may have multiple choice exams where you’re expected to recall detail oriented information (names, dates, wars, etc.) whereas upper division courses may have essay exams that expect you to understand more thematic information (theories, etc.) Sometimes intro level courses have essay exams or essay components to the exams that anticipate your ability to think critically about concepts and theories in the course (ex: “colonialism,” “feudalism,” etc.)

What I have done for the majority of my humanities and social science exams is type up all of my lecture notes and reorganize it in a way that thematically makes sense - sometimes a professor might jump around and it helps to reorder your notes according to concepts that are either set up explicitly in the syllabus or that you can make sense of on your own. Sometimes professors give study guides that do this for you, and you can use the structure of the study guide to organize your notes. After I type up my notes, I print them out and read through them, highlighting information that strikes me as particularly relevant or critical to the concept its organized under. If I know that I’ll be expected to remember dates, I’ll also highlight important facts and such. If I am confused about anything in my notes, even something very minor, I’ll try to make sense of it using outside resources (“Google, what the heck is Federalist #78 all about?!”) but if I’m still confused, I will meet with the professor for clarification.

I think a good way to tell if you really know something is if you’re able to explain the information to someone else with relative ease. I sometimes subject my poor friends to my imaginary lectures so I can see if I actually know my stuff. It helps even moreso if you’re able to explain the information in very simple, conversational terms. (“So, Federalist #78 is basically this dude Alexander Hamilton telling these anti-federalist folks that they got no reason to worry about the judicial branch since the fact that the judiciary has no power over money or military means they depend on the President and Congress…” etc.) I think that I am most confident while taking exams when I’ve explained the information to someone else beforehand.

Also, studying is always easier when you’ve done all of the course readings, attended all lectures, and have taken detailed notes.

Best of luck!

  1. Go to Professor’s office hours early in the semester. Ask this question: “I know this is a really difficult class-- what are some of the common mistakes students make and how can I avoid them?”

  2. If you have problems with the homework, go to Prof’s office hours. If they have any “help sessions” or “study sessions” or “recitations” or any thing extra, go to them.

  3. Form a study group with other kids in your dorm/class.

  4. Don’t do the minimum…do extra problems. You can buy books that just have problems for calculus or physics or whatever. Watch videos on line about the topic you are studying.

  5. Go to the writing center if you need help with papers/math center for math problems (if they have them)

  6. If things still are not going well, get a tutor.

  7. Read this book: How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less by Cal Newport. It helps you with things like time management and how to figure out what to write about for a paper, etc.

  8. Does your college have a “Study Center” or “Student Success Center”? They may help with study tips/strategies.