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How to Create Study Guides That Actually Work

May 23, 2018

How to Create Study Guides That Actually Work

Study Guides That Work

Effective study guides can make a huge impact on how you learn and retain material. Find out the best tips for success in this guest post by San Diego tutor Natalie S

Studying for an exam can be a stressful, daunting process. When you’ve got a textbook, a binder full of lecture notes, and a bunch of homework, it’s hard to know where to start! Study guides are great tools that make this process much more manageable and efficient.

Check out the tips and suggested resources below to help you create study guides that will make you more effective and less stressed.

1. Start with the basics.

In order to ace your exams, you need to do the work from the beginning. This may seem like a pretty silly statement, but it bears repeating anyway. It’s pretty difficult to create a study guide if you didn’t do any of the homework or projects leading up to exam time. So, start off the right way: be present in class, do the required readings, complete the assigned homework, and engage in class discussions. If you consistently do this, the process for creating a study guide and acing your exams will be much easier.

2. Take notes. Take notes. Take notes.

When you’re in class or reading on your own, make sure to always have a pencil, highlighter, and Post-it notes in hand. When you write something down, you internalize the information better, so even though it might be easier to just listen in class, it’s more beneficial to you in the long-run if you consistently take notes. Class lectures are designed to introduce you to the material, subsequent readings from your textbook are designed to have you review the same information again, and finally, this information is reinforced once more when you do your homework. When teachers give you a test, they want you to take all of those instances of hearing, reading, and writing about the information, and apply all of that to prove you’ve actually internalized the information. The best way to do all of this successfully is to write the material down over and over.

3. Take the right types of notes.

This is a very important piece of the study guide puzzle. This may take some time and practice, but you have to find a balance between extracting the most important details and rewriting your entire textbook. A good study guide should be a combination of both the lecture notes and notes from the readings. Go through chapter notes and look for similarities in your lecture notes. If certain topics, names, or concepts appear more than once, underline or highlight them, and make sure they are prominent in your study guide. Something that appears multiple times is clearly important and will show up on an exam. Combine your two sets of notes into one, coherent study guide.

4. Ask your teacher for guidance.

Before making a study guide, ask your teacher if he or she is going to provide a list of terms, ideas, and even possible essay topics that will be on the exam. Sometimes teachers will offer this information to make it easier for you to create your own study guide.

5. Third time’s the charm.

A great option for getting the most out of your study guide is to write it in three steps. The first step is writing the long version. This is a lengthy outline that includes a lot of detail on the major topics. In this first version, rewrite your class notes in a more organized outline, compile notes from the text, and include any additional ideas that you learned from class. In the second step, you cut this outline down by half. Write out the major headlines and include 5-10 of the most important details under each headline. In the third step, a couple of days before the exam, cut your outline in half again, and write down only the major bullet points. Once you’ve written those down, repeat out loud the details that pop up in your head for each bullet point. The goal in creating this type of outline study guide is to force yourself to rewrite the info in your own words more than once. Each time, you’ll begin to learn the material more thoroughly, and by the third time, you’ll be able to practically teach the material yourself!

There are all kinds of ways to organize your study guides based on the subject you are reviewing and the learning style that suits you best. For more help creating and learning about different types of study guides, check out the following helpful resources:

Natalie S.Natalie S. tutors in English, ESL, History, Phonics, Reading, and Test Prep in San Diego, as well as through online lessons. She received her BA in English Education at the University of Delaware, and her MA in English Literature at San Diego State University. Learn more about Natalie here!



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Photo by English106

Megan L. is a writer and musician living in San Diego. She loves supporting independent artists and learning more about music every day. Megan has been working for TakeLessons since November 2011. Google+

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