By the time midterms and finals come around, so much material has already been covered in the course. As college students, we struggle with condensing the information and knowledge in a comprehensible way that will help us prepare for our exams. While some professors provide their students with study guides to help dictate a clearer sense of what information we will be expected to know, other classes leave us to our own devices in preparing for an important exam. But even if the professor does not provide the study guide, a study guide that you make on your own can be just as helpful - as long as you make sure to include a few crucial components.
1. Be both general and specific.
Although it seems paradoxical, a study guide should be both general and specific. It should cover the main points and hit all the general topics, but it should also focus on some of the more nitty-gritty details. Make a study guide that covers the broader areas, but will also narrow into the more detailed specificities. Knowing the details and particularities of a concept will help you better understand how that topic ties into the bigger picture!
2. Make it comprehensive.
Your study guide should also be comprehensive and should make clear connections between different chapters. The different PowerPoints that your professor presents, the different chapters among textbooks— these should all be clearly connected and flow together. One of my favorite ways to connect the different topics is by making a concept map, where I can visually depict the associations.
3. Connect the points.
Many exam questions will test your understanding of the professor’s lectures and the points that they made in class. However, there will likely also be questions from the textbook. To avoid leaving any points on the table, make sure that you read the textbook and incorporate information from the textbook into your study guide!
4. Review old resources.
During the making of your study guide, review old quizzes and homework assignments! If you got a question wrong before, make note of it to avoid ever making the same mistake again. Clear up any questions that you may have with your professor or with a TA, and include those key points in your study guide.
5. Re-listen to old lectures.
Professors often record their lectures or allow students to record the lectures themselves. Not only is this a helpful resource when students can't make it to class, but it is also useful to listen to old lectures when studying. When you listen back on old lectures, you can hear the professor break down concepts, which will help guide your learning and understanding of the different terms.
Study guides are useful in helping us identify important terms and concepts before exams, and making our own study guides can be a crucial first step towards studying.