When you first embark on the path of studying psychology, it’s easy to be seduced by the myriad fascinating theories and colorful characters who make up the discipline. There’s no escaping the truth, though: psychology is challenging, even for people who love learning about the inner workings of the human mind. No matter how smart you are, don’t make the mistake of winging it on your next psychology test. Instead, follow these five key tips.
Practice Active Reading
When you read a new chapter in your book or an important article, don’t just passively read. Keep a notebook nearby and jot down anything you don’t understand. When the book presents complicated concepts or processes, write down each step. This ensures you have a ready-made study guide. Moreover, the process of writing itself can help you learn the material much more quickly.
Make a Study Guide
When it’s time to get ready for the test, don’t just rely on the worksheets or notes your professor gives you. Make your own study guide based on the material your professors say you need to learn. This ensures you’ve presented the material to yourself in a way that your brain can easily process. Moreover, if you’ve taken notes while reading, turning these notes into a study guide can help you more effectively encode the information for the long-run.
Study a Little Bit at a Time
Don’t wait till the last minute to cram in everything. It’s easier on your brain and on your schedule if you devote a few minutes each day to studying. This approach prevents you from having to give up a weekend to study; it also increases the likelihood that you’ll remember the material not only on test day but also for years to come.
Talk it Over
When you talk about what you learn, you provide a framework and context that makes it easier to remember the information. Try joining a psychology study group or discussion club, and spend lots of time talking about what you’ve learned. If you hate group work, try writing blog posts about psychology, talking to your significant other, or even reporting on psychology to your dog or cat. When you say it out loud, your brain hears it in a way that renders it more memorable.
Choose the Right Environment
If you’ve paid careful attention in your psychology classes, you might have learned that context matters when it comes to learning. We remember things better when we have to recall them in the same environment in which we learned them. This means you’ll do better on your psychology test if you study in a relatively quiet room similar to the testing environment – not a rollicking, loud party or a distraction-filled restaurant.
Of course, if you don’t’ understand something, no amount of studying will help. If you find yourself struggling, seek help early. Most psychology concepts build upon one another, so if you miss the initial framework, you may struggle for the rest of the semester.