Most straight-A students don’t find studying to be a big deal. They realize that mastering a subject comes from working, bit by bit, on the front end – smart lecture notes, organized lecture notes, and identifying the big ideas from the coursework. So, if you’re studying hard, then you’re doing something wrong. Organizing all of your resources is the key to working smarter, not harder. Here’s how:
Define the challenge: you need to know what kind of information the professor wants you to know. Once that goal is established, the best way to get there is by determining which lectures are fair game, what type of questions (and how many), is the exam open or closed book, which formulas need to be memorized, and how much time is allotted for the exam.
Build a study guide (nontechnical classes): find out which lectures are relevant for the exam, print then out, and fasten them together with a paperclip. In essence, you are creating a notebook full of material that will serve as “chapters.” And, you’ll be less likely to get themes and topics jumbled up.
Construct a mega-problem set (technical courses): this is similar to the above step, with these minor adjustments: match the lecture to the problem set, copy sample problems from lecture notes to a blank page, label the blank piece of paper with the date of the lecture (helps with figuring out where problems came from), and fasten this sheet with a paper clip to the problem set you matched in step one.
Prepare memorization aids: if there are aspects of the exam that require rote memorization, buy a stack of flashcards and start filling them out in advance. You could do this while watching a favorite TV show and will still be committing concepts to memory.
Schedule your organization wisely: don’t try to organize all of the material and review in the same day; it requires too much brain power and you want to be fresh when you dig in.
Newport, C. (2007). How to become a straight-A student: The unconventional strategies real college students use to score high while studying less. New York: Broadway Books.