Loyola University Maryland

Counseling Center

Study Skills and Test-Taking

You may find that studying in college is very different from studying in high school. Don't be surprised if the study habits that helped you in high school aren't working as well in college—many students find themselves in this predicament. It usually takes a while to get the hang of preparing for exams and writing papers successfully in college.

Your professors can be helpful in showing you what is required for their classes. Make good use of their office hours by making frequent visits to ask them for assistance. Once a professor has helped you to prepare for their class, go back and show them what you have done to make sure that you are on the right track. Most professors will remember the time and effort that you put in when it is time to assign a grade. Other helpful resources on campus include The Study (including tutors and time management coaches), the Writing Center, the Academic Advising and Support Center, Disability Support Services, and the Counseling Center. All offer learning assistance programs to help students with study skills and test taking. 

Preparing to Study

  1. Making good and efficient use of your study time will greatly improve the effects of your studying.
  2. Most students need help in overcoming their dislike of certain subjects, and students often need to study more effectively even in favorite subjects.
  3. Inefficient study is often the result of carelessness, procrastination, poor planning, and poor study habits.
  4. Effective study means studying thoroughly and completing assignments on time and in the best possible form.
  5. It is important to concentrate on what you are doing. Avoid distractions in the area where you study, as well as in your head, such as wandering thoughts about dates, friends, or academic pressures.
  6. You should be physically comfortable when you sit down to study. Excessive hunger or fatigue can prevent you from doing a good job or can be used as an excuse for not studying.
  7. Set priorities for yourself in terms of the subjects that are easy for you and those that are more difficult and require more work.
  8. Make a list of the subjects you are studying now, and honestly rate yourself in each one. Are you good, fair, or poor? This will tell you where you especially need to focus your efforts.
  9. Schedule your study time depending on your overall abilities and the difficulty of your assignments. Schedule your study for the time when you work best, not when your energy is low. When you know that a certain time is set aside for studying, it becomes a habit, a part of your daily routine.
  10. Set aside a definite period of time each day for each subject. If you vary the order of the subjects that you study each day, you can avoid boredom.
  11. Give more time to your most difficult subjects, and tackle them when you are the most alert.
  12. Set up your study periods so that they are a reasonable length. Take brief breaks before moving on to a new subject. Breaks are important to avoid wasting your study time because of fatigue, but don't abuse the breaks.
  13. If you keep up with your daily assignments, you can avoid last minute cramming for exams.

Preparing for Exams

  1. Organize your materials. Put all your notes and books together for a particular course at least a week before your exam. If you find that you are missing some information, you still have time to get it from other students in your class or the professor.
  2. Find out about the test. Ask your professor as much about the test as he or she will tell you. What is the format? What information will be covered? What is the professor most likely to emphasize? Does the professor give partial credit for answers? How long will the test be? Will it be similar to previous tests in that class? Asks students who have taken the course previously what to expect from the professor's tests.
  3. Make a study guide. Make an outline of the material that will be covered on the test, then check off each section as you have mastered it.

Test Anxiety

  1. Don't be surprised if your level of anxiety increases as test time approaches. Anxiety is natural, but remember, this is not a test of your self-worth. It is a test of specific information for a specific course. One test does not have to set the course for your performance in a whole class, or a whole semester, or your college career, or your future.
  2. Do all that you can to prepare in a timely fashion, and try to relax. Anxiety makes it difficult for you to think clearly, so relax.
  3. Exercising is a helpful way to relieve anxiety. Before sitting down to study, exercise. When you find yourself tensing up, exercise.
  4. Soothing music can also be relaxing. Make sure that it is soothing—music that calms you, not music that distracts you or rocks you.
  5. Close your eyes and envision yourself knowing the answers to all of the test questions—actually see yourself in your mind’s eye, sitting in the classroom with a smile on your face as you are writing away, giving the correct answers to the exam. Envision yourself succeeding in this because you put in the study time that you needed to be prepared.
  6. When you take the exam, make sure that you start with the directions and read them very carefully so that you know exactly what the professor is asking. Remember that some exam directions will be given to you orally by the professor, so listen carefully, and read carefully.
  7. When you've gotten your exam results back, if you had some difficulties with the exam, make an appointment with the professor. Ask him or her what you did wrong and what you could do differently to prepare for the next exam. Use this exam as a learning tool, then put it behind you and begin preparing for the next one. Don't beat yourself up if your grades aren't what you hoped they would be.
  8. Don't be afraid to ask for help—from tutors, The Study, professors, friends, The Counseling Center, etc.. If you need help with study skills or test taking, call or stop by the Counseling Center or The Study (top floor of Jenkins Hall, 410-617-2104) and find out about the learning assistance programs they offer.

If you would like to discuss study skills, test-taking, text anxiety, or any other issues, please call or stop by the Counseling Center (410-617-2273) to schedule an appointment.