How to Use a Study Guide for a Test

A study guide is a short document that gives students information about what is going to be on a college exam. These guides can offer a simple summary of the course topics, or they might offer detailed information about important terms and concepts.

Are study guides useful? If they are used correctly, these guides can help you make sure that you are not forgetting to study something important and can help you ace a midterm or final exam. Unfortunately, study guides often are used badly, which can hurt your performance quite a bit.

The Incorrect Way to Use a Study Guide

The biggest mistake that students make is to use the study guide as the starting point and center of the study process. They go point by point down the concepts on the page, and then look up these terms and concepts in their notes and the readings.

Why doesn’t this work? For one thing, there may well be material on the exam that’s not on the study sheet. But perhaps more importantly, this “point by point” method of studying won’t help you to understand how the ideas you learned in this course all fit together.

If you rely too heavily on the study sheet, you might memorize key facts about these speeches. This might be helpful for answering simple multiple choice or identification questions.

This question asks you to use a textbook chapter as a lens for discussing these speeches. It requires you to synthesize an understanding of Chapter with an understanding of the speeches, and that’s hard to do if all you did was memorize information.

An even worse mistake is to use the study guide as a substitute for doing the reading or attending class regularly. This is obviously not why professors hand out study guides.

The Correct Way to Use a Study Guide

Study guides can be very helpful if students use them as a supplement to their study process. Think of study sheets as a little something extra to help you out, but not as something to rely upon exclusively.

There are several ways to do this. One way is to review your notes and the readings as if there were no study guide. Then, go through the study guide and make sure you know all the information that is on it.

Another strategy is to keep your study guide at hand as you review your notes and readings. When you come across something that’s on the study sheet, make sure you understand it, and then cross it off. When you’re finished, check to see if there’s anything you didn’t check off, and then go back and look for the missing information.

You can also use the study guide to help you communicate with your professor. Read over the study guide when you first receive it. If there are terms or concepts on there that you don’t understand, meet with your professor and ask for an explanation.

A Study Guide is a Tool, Not a Crutch

Students get into trouble when they rely too heavily on a study guide, thus using it as a crutch. Remember, this is only a guide, and should not be used as a substitution for reviewing the class material. Learn how to use study guides as a tool to help you review for an exam, and you’ll find that they can actually be quite helpful.

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