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Teachers will tell students to study or review a particular chapter or section before a test. What does that mean though? Students are not taught strategies for how to study or review material. Most students read over the textbook or their notes again and don’t interact with the material. In order for our brains to truly learn and retain the material we need to do something with what we have read. Knowing how you learn can help you choose the best strategies to help you retain information and get the grade you want on the test. Making a study plan for major tests in advance can help students big time. When I work with students on making a study I do not allow them to write the word, study in their plan. Instead they must be specific as to what they will be doing. For example, create flash cards for science vocabulary words or quiz myself with cues from my notes. With midterms and finals approaching try using specific words to prepare and review for exams.

How does our brain retain information?

First, we encode information by reading. The information goes into our brains and we become familiar with the material. Then, we need to retrieve the information to use it.  We have to get it out. In psychology this is referred to as the “retrieval effect.” “The more things you have it (information) connected to, the easier it is to pull it out, because you have lots of different ideas that can lead you to that particular material,” Mark McDaniel, a Professor of Psychology at Washington University. “And the things you retrieve get more accessible later on, and the things you don’t retrieve get pushed into the background and become harder to retrieve next time.” Hence, the reason why students need various strategies and quizzable tools when preparing for tests. Students need to quiz themselves before the teacher does to see how much they know and reflect on how to retrieve the information in the future.

Preparation and Review Strategies for Students


  • Develop study sheets
  • make flash cards
  • make self-tests
  • do problems
  • summarize material
  • predict essay questions


  • Recite study sheet from memory out loud
  • Quiz self with flash cards
  • Take self-tests
  • Recite notes out loud from recall cues
  • Re-create chart from memory
  • Answer essay question

Need help making a study plan for an upcoming exam? Contact me and we can sit down together to create a detailed plan to help you get the grade you want. Wishing you less stress and more success.

mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“