A Guide to the Study Guide

Everyone has their own method of studying, but the classic process of making a study guide is something you see quite often.  But how can you make a truly great study material that will actually increase your chances of successfully retaining this information?  Well, first off, it is vital that you understand the information rather than just memorizing it – this may be something you heard your middle school teachers preach to you, but it really is good advice.

Step #1: Identify all necessary information.  Go through your notes, your textbooks, and every powerpoint slide that teacher presented and narrow down what is important to know for the upcoming test.  Not only must you collect this key information, you must then proceed to break it down into terms that make sense to you.  Studying facts that look foreign to you is not going to do any good, so rewriting each bit of knowledge in your own words is very important for your mindset to be able to take this on.

Step #2: Categorize this information.  Now that you have a bunch of statements that make sense to you, group them accordingly.  This is where the actual creation of the study guide begins.  Divide the material into sections, title each section with a clear and distinctive idea, and list bullet points of the coordinating facts under each one.  This may seem very elementary, but unfortunately it gets easily looked over by students who are in a panic to simply get the information into their heads.  Taking the time to create a logical way to do that often gets pushed aside.

Step #3: Make flashcards if necessary.  When it comes to remembering dates of wars or vocabulary definitions, staring at a well-organized packet of papers may not be the best way to go.  Having flashcards handy will make studying practical and easy to do anywhere – riding the bus, waiting in line at the cafeteria, and of course sitting at your desk the last few minutes before the actual exam begins.  Flashcards are a spectacular way to test how you will immediately react to a question with no answer in sight.  The plethora of answers staring back at you on a study guide can sometimes get too comforting and distract you from the importance of making sure you can remember them on your own, so use your best judgment to apply flashcards when needed.

Step #4: Ensure your materials are aesthetically pleasing to the eye.  Anyone will get bored reading chicken scratch from a ballpoint pen on notebook paper.  Keep yourself engaged by highlighting significant points with bright colors, drawing stars next to items you have trouble with, underlining and circling topics that relate to each other, etc.  What makes a study guide “pretty” will differ from student to student, so this one is up to you.  But don’t ignore it – staying amused during this process is important.

Step #5: This one is sort of a give-in – but study, study, study!  Bring this guide with you absolutely everywhere.  You never know when you’re going to have a free moment, so you’ll be happy when you can conveniently reach into your backpack and undergo a quick study session.  More importantly, you’ll be happy you made this perfect guide to look at in the first place rather than having to scramble through old notes or get to a computer lab.  Happy studying!