1. Write, don’t read. To retain large amounts of course material and gain command over details and concepts you must write, not just read. Studying should be an active process, not a passive one. This might involve copying out definitions, condensing long notes into short summaries, or preparing outlines for essay questions. Glancing back over notes will not help much.
2. Throw away your highlighter pens. Highlighting your books is still a passive way of studying. You are just indicating which passages might be important, but without showing why. When you go back to study, you will have a bright pink book, but you won’t remember why. If you don’t mind defacing a book, you should use a pencil, not a highlighter. Write questions in the margins, indicate confusing sections with question marks, add definitions to words you looked up, remind yourself of relevant examples that were discussed in class, etc.
3. Set specific goals and plan your time. Use your calendar to assess how much time you have to study for your exams. Assume effective studying will take about twice as long as you think. Then map out what you will do, and when. Make a plan.
4. Work in short, timed sessions, and switch topics regularly. Work in brief but focused sessions of 25 minutes, giving yourself a five-minute break in between. Take longer (30-minute) breaks every two hours. Set a specific goal for each session and cross it off your list when you’re done. Don’t binge on one course, because you’ll just get tired and confused. Do an hour on one subject, then switch to another, and so on.
5. Cut out distractions during work sessions. Turn off your phone and internet connection or use one of the internet blocking apps that cut you off for a period of time. Hide in the library while you’re studying and make a date to hang out with friends as a reward when you’re done. You’ll be more effective and you’ll enjoy your ‘down time’ more if you’re not worrying about your exams.