By Jason Linstonburgh
What’s the ideal length of time to study for a test?
No matter if you are in high school or college, all instructors will announce tests or exams at least one week ahead of time. So take advantage of that and start reviewing materials right away. Trying to memorizing things the night before the exam is not going to help. Your brain will have no time to digest the concepts and you will either end up forgetting everything or mixing up a lot of things that are similar.
Instead, start working on the most important topics that you have problems with a week early, and set a timer for 45 minutes with 10-minute breaks, just like typical class schedules. Important topics are the ones your instructor talks about over and over again. These must be important, and will definitely show up in the test.
If your instructor gives you some study guides for the test, check those out. Or if you had quizzes before the test, you will find topics that comes up all the time — those are mostly likely to be in the test.
It is important to take a break every 45 minutes, because continuous stress to the brain will cause anxiety and you will end up forgetting everything or digging in to too many details. If you are preparing for tests in multiple subjects, try switching to another subject after the 10-minute break. The human brain is a multi-tasking machine; it will spend time consolidating things you learn and commit them to permanent memory while you are doing other things.
Make a plan on what topics to go over one week before the exam, spend a few hours per day working on them, and try not to study on the last day before the exam in order to avoid anxiety. If studying a subject 3 to 4 hours a day is not enough, then you are probably focusing on too many details that are not going to be in the test. A test can only ask you a limited number of questions based on a limited amount of topics, not everything in the lectures. If you get stuck on certain topics, don’t waste all your time on them, either move on or ask for help immediately, just to ensure your time is spent on getting the most points out of the test and not just 5 to 10 points out of the topics with which you get stuck.