Study Smarter, Not Harder

Here are some useful tips from students to help prepare for upcoming tests and finals.

by Claudia Llado, Reporter

Time Until Finals Begin:
Finals Have Begun.

As December begins, holiday celebrations are in full swing and Jags are nearing the end of the semester. Along with the sight of Winter Break, finals loom over these upcoming weeks. If you are looking for ways to improve your study routine, helpful tips from peers, or to learn some basic study techniques, you’ve come to the right place. 

As students’ lives differ through sports, work, volunteering, and other extracurricular activities, every study routine is different. Here are some tips from high school students and what they do to study and prepare for upcoming assessments.

Jocelyn Jensen ‘23 and Bella Whittier ‘24 work on homework for AP Statistics and Chemistry in the LMC Dec. 2. The amount of students using the library has increased as finals approach. “Finals are kind of scary. I’m just going over my notes and watching old lectures and stuff so that I can get a better understanding of my classes before finals season,” Jensen said.
(photo by Claudia Llado)

Aspen Heppe ‘25:

“I truly just dedicate a whole day in my weekend to study, study, study. I also take frequent breaks, which helps because it’s hard to do it all at once. I definitely find that I have to start spreading my study time out and I have to start planning like two weeks ahead of time. I think about what classes I’m good in and what classes I’m not [good in] to know which classes to study for more,” Heppe said.

Abbey Gardner ‘23

“It depends on the class obviously, but I like reviewing all of the material and keeping all of my papers organized. I’m a very busy person so just keeping a tight schedule, staying on top of everything, and not procrastinating, especially during this time, [helps]. I went to American Academy [for middle school], and I know it sounds weird, but the loads of homework in middle school has helped me so much in high school because like now as a senior I don’t have as much compared to like 8th grade. So it’s really taught me to stay on top of my stuff,” Gardner said.

Kade Ericson ‘23:

“I mainly try to focus more on the priority classes first and then I just go from there. And I read out loud a lot and talk about it so that I can get it in my memory and I’ll make sure to memorize it before so that I don’t have to always look at my notes,” Ericson said.

Some students believe that re-reading notes or skimming over endless paragraphs in textbooks works, but it may not for others. Research shows that using an effective study method and staying organized can lead to more academic achievement. Using these methods can also help with time management causing students to retain more information whilst studying for a shorter amount of time. If you’re looking to improve your study routine, here are some methods below that could help.

Blurting Method

This study method specifically helps with long-term memory and consolidation, meaning that this technique can be used after learning or reviewing a lesson to make sure that you understand the material properly. To do this method, set a 5-minute timer, and, after you have gone over the material, write down everything you remember from memory alone on a piece of paper without looking at your notes. After you’ve finished, scan your paper to check if everything is correctly written, and in a different colored pen, write down all the material you missed in your blurt. Everyone is different, but blurts are typically most effective when done uncommonly (for example, every other day or after you’ve learned something new).

Active Recall

This is a study technique where you repeatedly test yourself over the material learned. Compared to re-reading your notes or pages from your textbook, which put information into your brain, active recall instead makes you retrieve from your memory, actively learning because you are constantly quizzing yourself. To do this method, make a list of test questions about the topic you’re learning, and from memory, answer it to the best of your ability without your notes. Afterward, check for incorrect answers, using your notes to rewrite them correctly. Active recall can be done in a multitude of ways, so if you don’t want to make a list, you can write on flashcards instead, with the question on one side and the answer on the other. 

Feynman Method

This is my personal favorite, as it dabbles with active recall and consolidation. After you have reviewed your notes and material, act as if you’re explaining the topic to an audience (real or fake) who has no idea what you are learning about. When you’re teaching them, it needs to be completely from memory, without looking at your notes. If the topic needs to be studied more in-depth, first explain it as if you were talking to a child, speaking clearly and clarifying everything. Then, repeat the process but simplify it, talking in more general terms that you can understand in a more simple definition. You can always go to an actual person and explain what you’ve learned, seeing if they have any questions that you can clarify, which further helps with active recall.

Leitner System

This is a memorization method that focuses on spaced repetition. Instead of cramming the night before and studying all in one night, this method can help students space out their course material over a period of time. To do this method, you need two things, electronic or digital flashcards and 3 boxes labeled as “study levels” (level 1=hard, level 2=medium, and level 3=easy). For example, let’s say you have an entire concept you need to study before an exam. Start by writing index cards for each vocab word or material as needed, and when finished, all flashcards will be placed in box #1. As you study and answer a card correctly, it can be placed in box #2, moving up a level. But, if you answer a card incorrectly, place it back into box #1, and so on. When you have gone through all of the cards, maybe there are some cards still in box #1 (these would need to be studied more frequently) and some in box #2 (which wouldn’t need to be studied as often, like every other day or once a week). Do this method until all flashcards are placed in box #3.

Interested in more study tips? Maybe this link can help.

RCHS Finals Schedule 2022-23: