Learning to learn

Tips on how to study for upcoming exams

Hafsa Ahmed, Columnist

As a first-year student facing upcoming exams, I was interested in learning more about how I can improve my studying and share advice that could help college students like myself. Some of the techniques are ones that I learned through experience or obtained from other students. 


In regards to note-taking, it’s good to revisit what we highlighted as important. Thank god that most classes record their sessions so that students can review exactly what our notes meant to capture. We can also use this to reiterate the lessons that weren’t retained as well. The lecture videos that are recorded can be used as a visual aid to those that learn better that way, or to review things your notes might have overlooked.


One thing I have learned about studying is that I need a familiar and comfortable environment that allows me to focus and process information. I know that I can’t listen to most music while studying, especially music that is lively. It doesn’t allow me to thoroughly process any information since my brain is preoccupied with the lyrics in the music or the beat. I find it helpful to listen to really calm and slow music or natural sounds such as rainstorms. At the most crucial moments, I tend to not bother with music at all and find that, although it may take a minute or two, I actually study better in silence and fully understand the information I need to review. 


The myth of cramming as a good study method – holding off studying until the last minute before a test –  may work at first.  In the long term, cramming has a negative effect on your memory and is something that is best to avoid. Not only does it dramatically increase students’ stress levels, but also becomes a short-term solution where the information leaves your memory as quickly as it entered it. 


To avoid cramming, try studying three to five days prior to exams. First, find appropriate times to study in a familiar environment that helps you focus. Then you would do intervals with 10-15 minute breaks in between to stretch, drink water, etc. That time is also to help you refocus on your work and get the energy to ease back into it. 


Hamline has great resources to help, such as tutoring. Since the pandemic is a real issue, there are online sessions with tutors for specific subjects. There is also a spreadsheet including the contact information of tutors and their subjects making it easy for you to reach out. The writing center is another place that has gone online and is a great place to have a proper look at your writing.


So, there’s no need to stress about studying when there are places to help you on campus and multiple methods to choose from. The best we can do for now is find a studying method that not only gets us the grade but also helps us in the long run as we continue down this road of education.