Academics
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Olivia Treynor / Columbia Daily Spectator

As the first cycle of midterms comes to a close, you may be wondering how to improve upon your studying habits for the second round of midterms. And, even if you have done well on your midterms thus far, you may want to try, instead of studying harder, to study smarter. Well, not to fear, we’ve got your back.

Check out some studying tips that may prove useful to you!

1) Study what you don’t know

This tip may seem trivial, especially if you really don’t know what’s going on in a class, but your time before an exam is better spent going over doubts and core concepts you don’t know rather than just reviewing what you already do know. You may have a habit of going through notes and textbook readings before exams, and that’s great, but you should try to adapt your study routine and focusing on really understanding all the core concepts before doing a cumulative review.

A great way to do all of this is to first organize the course material into three categories: concepts you know well, concepts you need more practice with, and concepts you don’t know at all. If you want to, make a diagram illustrating this. A visual representation of what you know can give you a better understanding of how much you really need to study!

2) Do practice problems

This primarily applies to STEM and economics classes. Instead of rereading theorems over and over, you should attempt practice problems! They’re your best chance to apply the concepts that you’ve learned. Doing practice problems as a way to study is also an excellent way to mentally prepare yourself for the types of questions you’ll encounter on the exams, especially if your professor takes questions from the book.

Simply memorizing theorems isn’t an effective way of studying for quantitative-focused exams. Instead, attempting problems, especially ones that you consider to be challenging, is one of the best ways to study efficiently for your exams!

3) Create mini-summaries of readings

This tip primarily applies to humanities classes (especially the Core). First, it’s way better to study for humanities exams if you’ve done the readings before hand. If not, however, you’re not lost! The best way to prepare for your exam is to create a mini mental summary of what each text is about. You can accomplish this by going through both your lecture notes and online resources (such as SparkNotes) in order to get a general sense of the text.

Also, you should attempt to gain a general sense of the major themes of each text. This studying strategy will prove to be useful during your exam, especially if you happen to have passage identification questions, where recognizing themes can be extremely useful in identifying the texts of the respective passages.

4) Try out a study group

If studying individually isn’t working out so well, then try working together in a study group! If you’re in a class with your friends, then you already pretty much have a study group. If you aren’t however, not to fear! Reach out to some people you see often or interact with in the class; they’ll likely be more than willing to work together and study! Study groups are perfect for classes where there is a seemingly insurmountable amount of reading to do—everyone can come together and split up the readings so that studying won’t be such a hassle.

5) Choose an appropriate location

Where you study undoubtedly affects how well you retain information. If you’ve been cramming at Butler these past few months and it hasn’t been going well, try out Milstein or Avery. There’s plenty of libraries on this campus, and each has its own unique vibe. For a pretty comprehensive guide to Columbia/Barnard libraries, check out this article.

Alternatively, you may find yourself studying better in your dorm room or somewhere far away from campus. This, in the end, is up to you, so definitely try new studying locations in order to find out where you can focus best!

6) Organize and plan

Organization and planning are key skills that can really transform your studying process. Making a study plan for the night before the exam can help you study both effectively and without an excessive amount of stress. And, keep yourself organized! Split up what you have to study into distinct, concrete units and then study each unit—it’s more effective than studying randomly.

Ideally, organizing and planning beforehand can help mitigate issues you have the night before the exam, but you can still implement these skills at the last minute in order to study efficiently.

These are some studying strategies that could potentially help you in the future! If you want to look at some tips on personal organization, check out this article.

Thanks for reading, and best of luck with the rest of your midterms!


Staff writer Abhishek Hariharan can be contacted at abhishek.hariharan@columbiaspectator.com. Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

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