Your primary motivation for studying hard is to earn high scores on your tests. But since everything you learn is cumulative, helping you to eventually achieve your goal of a college diploma, why not make the most of it? Rather than simply memorizing facts to regurgitate on each test date, truly absorbing the information should be your end goal. This will help you to emerge from high school, and then college, a well-rounded person with a deeper understanding of the world around you.
The following tips can help motivate you to make the absolute most of the time you spend studying each subject.
Find the value. It’s one thing to learn about a topic; asking yourself why this topic is important and how it applies to life overall will take you one step farther. We retain the information that truly matters to use.
Take charge of your education. If you read the recommended passages and follow your teachers’ instructions, most of the time you will do well on tests. But sometimes that information can feel a bit dry and impersonal. Think of assignments and study guides as a starting point, not the end game. If you see something that interests you, look into it further. It might turn into a special interest, an extra credit opportunity, or a field that you study in more depth later in college.
Question what you’re told. When you’re presented with a collection of facts, often there is much more going on under the surface. As Winston Churchill said, history is written by the victors. When learning a historical narrative it can be important to keep that in mind. What would the losing side of a conflict say about their history? It might be fun to investigate. As for scientific studies, questioning the source of information can be an interesting (and enlightening) exercise. Sometimes a skeptic can uncover more than they expected… and it makes learning much more exciting.
Organize your notes in a way that makes sense to you. If you look back at class notes and discover a cluttered, confusing mess, reorganize them! Some people do better with outlines, while others prefer concept maps, diagrams, tables or charts.
Identify the larger goal. It’s easy to get caught up in names, dates, and places. Some of this information will be on the final, after all. But try to step back and see the bigger picture: How do all of these things connect? What is the main point of the story?
Test yourself. Your teachers test you to see how much you’ve learned. But why wait until test day to find out that information for yourself? Conducting quizzes or pretests on yourself can tell you how much you’ve learned, and where you need to work harder. Work with a friend and quiz each other, or use the pre-tests provided within textbooks or websites.
Be the tortoise. Remember the old fable, about the tortoise and the hare? The tortoise won the race because he made slow, steady progress and didn’t give up. Try to view learning as a continual exercise, something you do every day, to make steady gains. This will help you avoid “cramming” before a test, and you’ll retain more of the information permanently.