It is 9:00 AM on a Friday. Your Biology teacher has just assigned a test of the greatest importance.
You look to your right – Marcus, clad in EdEfficiency merchandise (coming soon), seems to be cruising through this test. You have studied quite a bit, even splitting your time evenly across the week for spaced repetition.
What has Marcus done that you haven’t?
Well, he used the strategies outlined in this article to use his study time as effectively as possible, while forging a deeper connection with the material.
Study questions “on the test”
To use your study time most efficiently, what better way to learn than studying similar questions to the test? It allows you to get used to the format of questions, and the various concepts and ideas that you must recall/implement in order to answer the question.
If you realize that the test will have more abstract questions, getting a hang of the concepts may be a better use of your time than simply memorizing information.
However, some tests are more driven by memorization – in that case, use tools like Quizlet to memorize the content where necessary.
Why this may not be ideal
If you want to learn the subject simply to learn, and gain a deeper understanding of the material, studying “for the test“ may not be beneficial for you.
Doing this strips the subject down to only the specific material that will be on the test, restricting you from learning other topics.
Often, what happens, is that you study for the test, and forget it a week later when you study for the next test.
If the course is structured well, it would ideally employ older concepts, even in newer tests, however that is not always the case.
If you don’t understand something, don’t go any further. Go back to the concept that confused you, and either search for supplementary material online, or ask your instructor for clarification.
Often, the instructor will be happy to help and explain it in another way that is more easily understood.
Apply, Apply, Apply.
Knowing something is one thing. Being able to apply that concept on a test is a whole other beast.
Thus, try to find examples in life where the things you learn can be applied. Try using test problems from your textbook to aid with this.
The best problems, however, are problems generated by your daily life. If you realize that you can solve a common problem with the concepts you learn, you are much more likely to retain that information.
This is called the Feynman Method.
First, you actually learn the material. You should get to the point of near proficiency.
Next, try teaching the material to someone who has never been introduced to the subject. This means, you have to summarize the content into as simple a language as possible, as to not confuse your listener.
Feynman’s philosophy, is that if you can teach a complex subject to a toddler, only then have you mastered the subject matter.
Find your “Why”
This can be hard in high school, when many of the classes you take are mandatory. However, I implore you to still try to find meaning to each of the classes you take. Why are you learning Biology? What makes it important?
If you have no meaning for doing something, you will have less motivation to continue studying it, and that can only last for so long (eventually, you will become miserable).