If only there were some kind of secret formula that would allow us all to pull an A+ on every test, life would be so much easier! Unfortunately, no such formula exists. (Calling all chemists! Super mega brownie points to anyone who can create one. The entire world would be in your debt.)
Like proper students, we work with what we are given: our brains. As I’m sure some of you know, everyone’s brain is slightly different—wired a different way, if you will—and because of this, everyone learns differently. Some people have stellar memorization skills. Some even have photographic memories (and I’m insanely jealous of you guys). Some learn better through visual cues, like charts and diagrams. Others learn best through writing things down or looking at the words themselves. The key to getting that A+ (besides some super-secret-smartypants nectar of the gods) is understanding your brain’s learning style.
Right Brained vs. Left Brained
Here is where some people get a little mixed up. There are two hemispheres of the brain, a right and a left. The left hemisphere is predominately used for analytical things. For example, if you are left brain dominate, you are better at thinking analytically or organizing things. You excel at learning languages, rhetoric, science, and math.
If you are right brain dominate, you are better at thinking intuitively and creatively. You are better at things like drawing, geometry, creative writing, and art. Some people are perfectly balanced, meaning one hemisphere is not dominate over the other. Each scenario has its own unique perks. If you haven’t already, take a test here to determine which side of your brain is dominate. Figuring out which style your brain prefers will help you find a study method that is right for you.
If you are right brained, try turning the lesson into a story. Visualize George Washington galloping off to war instead of just trying to memorize a battle name. Try drawing a picture or making a chart of all the things you need to know. Make it your own. Just staring at a text book and trying to memorize terms is not going to do it for you.
If you are left brained, try thinking about the lesson strategically. Order it in terms or importance or chronologically. Structure things in your mind in a way that makes sense to you. Categorize a list of terms by type or re-read the chapters. Forming the lesson into a logical series of steps will definitely help you pull that A+ you want.
If you are balanced, pick which ever style appeals to you in the moment! If it makes more sense to you to draw something out, do that. If it makes more sense to create a list of terms and flashcards, do that. Why not do both? Then you’re sure to do well.
Once you find a style that works for you, pick a couple methods of study. If you have a great memory, re-read the book. If you’re a talkative person, try having a friend or a family member quiz you. No matter which genetic traits you’ve been blessed with, make sure to go over your notes. And don’t forget to make those notes very detailed! Get the major points of emphasis and anything extra the teacher says (examples, references, etc). Personally, I sometimes get the tiniest bit sleepy in class (especially without coffee) and my eyelids tend to close every few seconds. If you’re in that half-awake, half-asleep zombie state I’m so familiar with, taking detailed notes as best you can is key because chances are, you won’t remember a whole lot from the lecture. Detailed notes help reinforce the material in your mind and help you understand it again the second time.
Also, no matter which study habits you like to employ, writing things out or making note cards can be extremely beneficial to anyone. Writing things out helps you to solidify it in your brain and make it easier to recall during test day. Even if it takes awhile or you have chicken scratch for handwriting (or super messy half-cursive, half-print like me), making note cards can do wonders! It’s my go-to study trick.
Pick the Right Environment
Picking a suitable study environment is key. Pick a place with a comfortable temperature where you can get some peace and quiet. Your desk at home, your favorite chair, or public libraries are all wonderful places to study. Whatever you do, make sure you pick a place with limited distractions. It’s hard enough to find the willpower to sit down to study; you don’t need other people or things breaking you from your ‘zone’. Try leaving your cell phone in a different room or at home and stay away from places with a lot of people. Make sure, whatever place you choose, that you are comfortable. You need to be able to sit (or sprawl on the floor like I sometimes do) for significant periods of time. Find a place that is yours and yours alone.
High school can be rough but we still have the tools to excel. Understand your learning style and use that to your advantage! Pick one or more study tips and find out which ones work best for you. Do your best, prepare well, and you can have the great grades you deserve.