In the days leading up to a major exam, devoting even one night to the creation of an all-encompassing, masterful, and creative study guide will do a world of good. You’ll position yourself to ace the exam. This will boost your overall class grade. Applying this practice across your classes can help bolster your grade point average, which improves your college prospects. Better yet, you’ll develop a skill that will benefit you during the upcoming years of college study. Most importantly, you’ll lower your overall stress levels. High school study resources abound for a reason. Whether or not certain concepts come naturally to you, you can do well in any subject area.
The key is putting pen to the paper, remaining organized, asking for help when you need it, and taking it all quite seriously. (It is your future we’re talking about here.) It’s also okay to get creative and have a bit of fun when putting together your study guide.
The end result? Boosted grades and an overall sense of accomplishment that neither your teachers nor your parents will be able to overlook. Turn on your classical piano playlist on Spotify and get ready to take on the world. Using our tips, will improve your ability to excel in any subject area.
Table of Contents
Use Pen and Paper
The first tip on how to make a study guide is this: do not type it out. Use pen and paper. And, whatever you do, don’t breeze past this detail. It’s actually the most critical point we’re about to make. Writing by hand does several things that will serve your success. First, it makes you slow down and really think about everything you’re putting on paper. This will help you concentrate on core ideas and quickly decipher which ones will require more of your time.
Second, it commits ideas to memory far better than typing. Writing by hand uses both cognitive skills and fine motor skills. As soon as you try it, you’ll find important concepts are better committed to memory than anything you could type. (That’s why we recommend taking notes in class using pen and paper instead of typing them into a laptop.)
Finally, when it comes to creating a quiet space, pen and paper is an environment free of distractions. The moment you turn a screen on, social media push notifications pop up, email notifications spring forth, and one quick check of a webpage could lead to an hour of study time squandered.
Organize Your Notes
Next, it’s time to take your study materials and turn them into the perfect high school study guide. So, the second most critical element is to get organized. Take all your pertinent notes and organize them by topic. Earmark those notes with the most pertinent topics that you expect will be covered on the test. Once you have a clear understanding of key ideas that might appear on an exam, you’ll be on a path to creating a concise and masterful study guide.
Draft a Summary Sheet
Once you’ve gathered all the main ideas in your notes, topically, it’s time to outline them on a sheet of paper. This may seem redundant but, again, it’s creating an organized flow and committing important elements to memory.
Take the relevant topics from your notes organization exercise and use them as main idea headings. Underneath each main idea, outline supporting concepts. You’re not defining any main points or jotting down examples here. Consider this almost like the Table of Contents to your study guide. It will go a long way toward organization and, again, start committing critical elements to memory.
Review Your Textbook
Review the chapter or chapters you’ll be tested on. See if there’s anything else that needs to be added to your summary sheet. Often, textbooks have already emphasized key concepts using bolded text and section headlines. Also, your textbook will likely have a chapter review and study questions. So, pull from these to add to your “Table of Contents.”
When it’s time to create concept maps, comparison charts, and flash cards, you’ll know where in the text to return to for material. Plus, study questions will help you create a sample test.
Create Concept Maps
Concept maps work very well for visual learners. And many of us are visual learners. In fact, it’s reported that 65% of the population are visual learners. It makes sense, then, that study help would revolve around graphic aids. The formula for a concept map is simple. On the left-hand side of a sheet of paper, write one of your main ideas. Then, draw lines, arrows, dotted lines, or squiggly lines and insert appropriate definitions and examples.
For example, on a calculus test, if you wrote “derivatives” on the left-hand side, you might draw a box or circle around that and then a connecting line to its definition and sample equations. A concept map works well for every kind of study aid; it not only organizes your thoughts, but provides a beautiful visual aid when complete.
Insert Comparison Charts
A concept map is kind of a spider web of the most important topics. Meanwhile, a comparison chart is a breakdown of related, yet different, concepts. For example, if you’re creating a study guide for an upcoming AP English exam on Little Women, you might write each sister’s name on one line, drawing a vertical line between each. Underneath each sister, you can list their key characteristics and begin to unveil their common characteristics and stark contrasts.
Favor Flash Cards
Flash cards are popular when vocabulary tests are on the horizon. But, they can be used for many different reasons. You might write definitions on flash cards, sure. But, you can also use them to run through example questions. For an Algebra test, as an example, take 20 or so flash cards and write out mathematical equations with the answer on the back. Or, if introductory chemistry is the subject, take 20 flash cards and write out the details for key elements on the periodic table. On the back, you can annotate which element it is and how many atoms it has.
You’ll notice this strategy is quite similar to a concept map. However, a concept map keeps everything contained on a few sheets of paper. Flashcards, however, chisel out each main idea and allow you to create topic stacks. You’ll quickly see which concepts you need to return to for further study and which concepts you’re about to ace.
Create a Sample Test
At this point, you’ll have several pages of organized material. Design a sample test as though you were the teacher. Create questions that will ask you to define key concepts and answer pertinent questions. If this is a study guide for a math test, there will probably be sample questions at the end of your textbook chapter. Recreate those in your own 10-question sample test.
If this is a study guide for a work of literature, create comprehension questions, character study questions, or important plot-related questions. Have fun. Putting yourself in your teacher’s shoes for a moment will only deepen your understanding. And, if you have a friend who’s as studious and diligent as you, ask him or her to create a sample test, too. Then, you can swap exams and grade each other’s work.
Highlight Difficult Material
This will look different for everyone. Whatever material you’re struggling with (flash cards can quickly reveal this), set it aside or highlight it. This will help you understand what you need to return to in the textbook or ask your teacher, a classmate or your tutor for further help.
The next time you return to your study guide, start with these difficult concepts while your brain is fresh and your motivation is high. Before you know it, those difficult concepts will be committed to memory just like the others.
Create Your Study Guide Today
The best study guide is hand-written and organized. Each of these components go a long way toward cognition and retention. Don’t be afraid to get creative, either. Add color to your concept maps. Draw small illustrations across your comparison charts. Don’t view studying as a chore. Rather, use it as a time to get creative and create an element of relaxation on test day.
At Tungsten Prep, we provide academic tutoring, AP exam prep, and SAT and ACT test prep. Our support is high-quality and tailored to the learning style of each student. Feel free to schedule a consultation with us today. We successfully pair students with the right tutors to help them create the study guides and, thus, the GPAs of their dreams.