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What's the Best Way To Study for Finals?

What's the Best Way To Study for Finals?

As finals approach, many students wonder what is the best way to study for exams.  This is a question that has been researched often, in many situations, and the most consistent, best answer:  form a study group.

The best research on college success—whether at a top ten university or in a remedial class at a community college—indicates that being in a study group is the single most significant way to improve your performance, sustain your motivation, and keep you on track to success.

You need to do this with the intention (obviously!) of studying and with everyone working to help everyone do as well as possible on exams.  Think of it as everyone being everyone's personal (exam) trainer. As with anything worthwhile,  you may need to try out a few  different arrangements before you find the right group, but it makes every aspect of college easier and even offers a support network for after you graduate, too.

What's the best way to organize a study group?  The best advice is keep it small (under 6 people); find people who are as dedicated as you (or more so) to maximizing the educational results, not the social results; structure the group using active learning principles so everyone contributes--and is expected to contribute (everyone learns when everyone is learning); come up with a regular time and place and stick to those to minimize organizational stress and cultivate  coming to the group as a good habit; appoint a different leader for each section, someone dedicated to methods of engaged learning so everyone is heard (I find something simple, like alphabetical rotation, is ideal); cultivate an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable admitting "I don't understand this" or "I'm overwhelmed--I need help with time management as well as content."  A small group might break off for that session to focus on that while others proceed with content.

Here's a useful link with sound advice on how you might go about forming a study group and what to do once you have started one:

And here's one on the principles of active learning:




This blog is adapted from "Ten Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your College Experience," in Cathy N. Davidson, The New Education:  How To Revolutionize The University To Prepare Students for a World in Flux (Basic Books, Sept 2017). 






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