Students Guide on How to Study for a Science Exam

How to Study for a Science Exam

How to Study for a Science Exam

It can be a little nerve-wracking when your science teacher announces an exam since you may have to remember formulas, vocabulary, and lab problems. Even though science might seem like a tricky subject to learn, there are a lot of things you can do to remember what you learned in class. We’ll start with some basic guidelines for studying efficiently and then cover techniques you can use to review and memorize everything you need to know!

  1. Do some example problems.

Practice using formulas you just learned to commit them to memory. Try to do the problems the same day you have a lecture so it’s still fresh in your memory. Work on any homework your teacher gave you, or check at the end of your textbook to see if there are questions to answer. Do your best to solve the problems from memory without looking them up to see how well you’ve retained the information.

  • If you don’t have any example problems in a textbook, try searching online for the concept you just learned followed by “example problems” to find some.

2. Go through some flashcards.

Test how well you know information whenever you have free time. Write down vocab words, formula names, and any other important concepts on your flashcards and put the answers on the back. Look at one of your flashcards and try your absolute hardest to answer the question without flipping it over. When you think you’ve got the question right, check the back of the flashcard to see if you’re right.

  • Don’t immediately flip a flashcard if you don’t know it right away. Really try to dig in your memory for the answer before checking it.

3. Make a concept map from memory.

Connect concepts on a chart to practice recalling test material. Start with the main topic that you’re reviewing in the center or top of a piece of paper. After that, write the key topics and main ideas and connect them to the topic with lines. Keep branching out from the new things you’ve written down with definitions and important information you remember. Try to write down as much as you remember from the topic before checking the info in your textbook.[3]

  • This exercise helps you recall information so you’re more likely to remember it during the exam.

4. Try explaining the material in simple terms.

Pretend you’re teaching the material to see if you understand it. Imagine you’re telling the scientific concept to someone who has no experience with it. Write down or say out loud everything the person would need to know about the topic, but use words that are easy to understand. Double-check in your textbook that you got all the information correct.[4]

  • This exercise helps you reframe the material so you get a deeper understanding of it.
  • If you use complex words or jargon in your explanation, go back and try to use simpler language. For example, instead of using “velocity,” you might write, “the speed of an object in a certain direction.”

5. Remember concepts with mnemonic devices.

Assign tough information to abbreviations and nonsense sentences. If you’re struggling to remember a long list of concepts, try forming a funny sentence using the first letters of each item. You can also just shorten a list of tough words to their first letters so it’s easier to memorize. Since you’re visualizing the sentence instead of a long sentence, you’re more likely to remember it later on.

  • For example, you could remember the chemical symbols for the first 9 elements of the periodic table with a sentence like “Happy Henry Likes Beer But Could Not Obtain Food.”

6. Take practice quizzes.

Try out some test problems to gauge what you need to review. Ask your teacher for a study guide or practice exam, or look for quizzes in the back of your textbook and online. Try to answer the questions as best as you can without looking up the answers. When you’re finished, look up what you got wrong and review the information during your study session so you don’t forget it.[6]

  • Set a timer for the same amount of time you’ll have to complete the actual exam. That way, you can learn how to manage your time for each question.

7. Rewrite your notes in your own words.

Summarize the concepts you’ve learned so you retain the information. Look through the notes that you took in class and pick out as vocab words, formulas, and scientific properties since they’re most important. On a fresh sheet of paper, organize the concepts you covered so they’re easier to read through. Since you probably took a lot of notes in class, do your best to condense them to only cover the info you need to know.[7]

  • If you’re taking notes from reading assignments, paraphrase the text rather than copying it word for word.

8. Read and summarize textbook chapters.

Scan through and review readings to get a deeper understanding. Start by paging through the reading assignment and looking at all the headings and images to get an idea of what the text covers. Then, take your time to read through the chapter slowly so you’re able to recognize the most important concepts. When you finish the reading, paraphrase the topics and write them down in your notes.[8]

  • Try to read or scan readings before class if you know the subject you’re covering. That way, you can ask your teacher about confusing topics you encounter.

9. Highlight important information.

Color-code your notes so you can find the concepts quickly. Look through your notes and pick out the formulas and concepts that you know you’ll have to memorize. Go over your notes with a warm-colored highlighter, like red, yellow, or orange, since it can help you feel more engaged. Be careful not to highlight everything in your notes, or else it’ll be harder to realize what’s the most important.[9]

  • You can always organize different topics with different colors. For example, you might highlight vocabulary words in yellow and important formulas in orange.
  • Try writing your notes in different colors too. If you know a piece of information is important, try writing it with a red pen instead.

10. Work in a quiet study space.

Find some comfortable places where you can focus on your studies. Look for a few cozy spots that don’t have a lot of noise or distraction.[10] It could be in your room at home, a coffee shop, or a study room at your school or local library. Even if you just cycle between the same few places, change where you study every day to help improve your memory and concentration.[11]

  • Don’t worry or stress out if you can’t find a new spot every day. You can still study effectively at home every day if you’re comfortable there.

11. Get rid of any distractions.

Turn off your devices so you’re able to concentrate on your work. Even though it’s really tempting to check your notifications, wait until you’ve wrapped up your studies. Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode, turn off the TV, and log out of social media so you aren’t tempted by it. Avoid playing games, watching videos, or browsing websites that aren’t related to the topic you’re studying.[12]

  • If you’re working somewhere with a lot of background noise, put on a pair of headphones and play calm or relaxing instrumental music. Try to avoid songs with lyrics since they’re a little more distracting.

12. Study in 45-minute chunks each day.

Use shorter sessions with breaks to prevent burnout. Work around the same time every day so you develop a routine.[13] While you’re studying, only focus on your notes, practice problems, and coursework. After 45 minutes, take a 15-minute break to get up, stretch, and check your phone so you can relax.[14]

  • If you don’t have a big block of time, space a few 15- to 20-minute study sessions throughout the day. For example, you may review your notes during a study hall at school and then again before you go to bed at night.

13. Go over your notes the same day you take them.

You’ll remember notes better when they’re fresh in your mind. Within 3–4 hours of taking notes, read through them again so you can review what your teacher covered. Since you’ll still have the lecture on your mind, you’re more likely to recall all the concepts discussed in class as a whole.[15]

  • If you wait a day or two before reviewing, you’ll probably forget the actual lecture and have to rely only on your notes.

14. Form a study group.

Get together with your classmates to review and learn the material. Find 2–5 other students that pay attention in class and ask them if they want to study with you. During your study session, set out a clear learning goal at the beginning so you don’t go off-topic. Have everyone individually read through the topic or work on practice problems. Once everyone is finished, take turns explaining what you learned to the other people in the group.

15. Start studying when you find out about the exam.

Get a head start early on so you don’t have to cram later. While it can be really tempting to push your studies to the last minute, you won’t remember as much when it’s time for the exam. The sooner you start reviewing information, the more time you’ll have to memorize the tough concepts.[17]

  • If you have multiple exams throughout the school year, start studying for the next exam 2 days after you take the previous one.

16. Meet with your teacher for help.

Ask for explanations if you’re still confused by the subject. Check your teacher’s open office hours and schedule time where you can pop in to see them. Come in with a few questions that you have about the subject and see if they can clarify them for you. Listen closely and take notes as your teacher explains the concepts again, and ask them follow-up questions if you’re still confused.[18]

  • Your teacher wants to see you succeed, so they’ll be happy to help you out when you reach out to them.