by First Mate Keira

The best study tips come from those who’ve used them and found that they work. They’ve been tried and tested. They get good grades. From my own personal experience, I’ve found these study tips to work best and get great results:

Start Early

For this tip, I speak from experience. As soon as you know details about the exam get hopping to prepare for it. In my case I always had a lot of final projects instead of exams and they’d all be given in the last 10 days of the semester. Yikes! That’d be anywhere from 3 to 6 final projects with a little over a week to complete them all. Starting early and keeping on track is the single best way I know of to power through and get good grades. If you don’t you might end up like I did my second semester of college – stressed out and feeling like something the cat dragged in through the mud. Start early. Start early. Start early.

Pay Attention

I had an art history instructor who always put his exams together in a similar fashion through the three courses I took with him. At the beginning of the first day of instruction he told students about studying for slides and the essay portion. It was easy to figure out what he really wanted you to study despite his covering broad topics in detail. I’ll tell you how I got inside his head and pulled off studying not only the bare minimum but the right subjects to study. It always confounded people who studied with me for his classes because I was always right. Always. I never failed to figure out what would be on the test. They asked me how I did it… and the answer was simple. I paid attention.

As I said, on the first day of a class (or the first class after an exam) he talked about essays. Each test was given 5 potential essay topics; only 2 would be on the exam itself. He suggested writing practice essays to prepare, which is certainly a good idea, but that’s not what I did. As he went through the class I numbered all my notes 1-5, corresponding to the different essay topics. Some items he went over could have multiple numbers attached. If that was the case, chances are you needed to know it in detail. In the end it was always easy to tell which essays he’d really pick because of the amount of information you could find on them in your notes. Have 8 items for essay 1, but 33 for essay 4? Essay 4 is the one to study.

Art history students can sympathize with the next portion of the exam, the slide identifications. It always required a ridiculous amount of detail to memorize. Not just the title or artist, but time period or date created, materials used, country/culture, techniques used, etc. By paying attention to my professor, you could tell which pieces he would put on the exam based on how much he explained or talked about them, similar to the essay portion. The best way to memorize is to eliminate what you don’t need and only focus on what you do. Don’t focus on the time period, if the professor discusses minutia about materials and technique.


Any subject can be easy to memorize, once you figure out what to cover and really focus on. I’ll stick with art history from my last tip and share my mnemonic strategies. Here are my steps for memorizing:

  1. Write all over your notebook and textbooks. Not doodles, unless you draw cartoons depicting the information. Give yourself permission to destroy the cleanliness of your books. Highlight, draw arrows, circle important stuff, underline definitions, whatever works, whatever is needed.
  2. Have copies of the artwork printed out. Doesn’t need to be big, you just need to see it and be able to write all over it. Not limited to art classes. Anything that’s an image could be printed and used as a study aid. Focus on graphs, statistics, formulas, whatever you got, use it.
  3. Find shapes and things that match what you need to study. For instance, for slide identification, find the date the piece was made inside the artwork. A curve of a sleeve could easily be a 7, a human figure could be a 1 or a 0 or an 8 depending on what you need, etc.
  4. Come up with a single silly sentence that includes everything else… example: This Ancient Greek Chariot Boy won so many bronze medals he had 580 girlfriends. You have the title, material, and date right in the sentence. Maybe the next Greek statue could be made into the Chariot Boy’s rival or his best friend. Keep stringing the sentences together. It’ll help build on your memory.


For other classes, like math, if there are practice exams – take them! Write that practice essay with 33 corresponding items and try to use all of them. If you get to bring in a piece of paper with notes, make it the best piece of paper you can. An hour or two of preparation work can do wonders for your final grade. I did this for all my college courses after that horrible second semester. Makes exams a piece of cake.

What do you think? I think I smell an A in your future.

What are your tried and tested study tips?