When your eyeballs feel like they are about to dry up into prunes, and your legs are achy, and your wrists hurt, and you’ve finally finished that last paper of the term you should reward yourself. What do I do? Go to Disneyworld? No, I head to the local stationary store and purchase ten to twelve packs of index cards.
I’m serious. As my classmates bound joyfully out of these last lectures of the term, I wonder if they’ve forgotten that it ain’t over yet. While some of my friends possess the ability to deflate and distress after the last lecture of the term, I cannot. Not until the last period is dotted on the last essay of the last exam I write this term will I be able to relax.
When classes are finished, I start exam prep. I am militant about this process. I kind of scare myself sometimes. I have devised a method where all subjects can be studied via flashcards. I divide content into themes, timelines, places, etc. Whatever I think will help me to best write a frantic paper in 45 minutes.
I’ve never shared this information with anyone before…don’t tease me. It’s just how I effectively chunk course content. It might not work for everyone, but it’s the only way I study.
The process of making the flashcards is long and arduous. Often times I find that by the time I’ve finished the process, I’ve already memorized a good portion of the content. For me, the process of rewording and condensing notes actually lodges the info into my memory. It’s not deliberate, it just happens. I can’t type the information out on one of those fancy flash card maker programs. I can’t remember anything I type.
I have not data to back up this claim, but I remember reading somewhere that the messier your writing is the easier it is to remember something you’ve read. I have horrible penmanship. It’s a hybrid of printing, cursive, and my own invented short hand. It is indecipherable by most others and often I have trouble figuring out what my notes say. When I force myself to go through all my messy notes and create these beautiful little flashcards in neat handwriting, some form of memorization takes place.
Once I have all my flashcards finished for a class, I start memorizing them, removing the ones I memorize as I go along. Usually within a few hours, I can get through a stack of 100-150 cards. I do this for a few days leading up to the exam. I only spend twenty minutes or so at a time going through the cards…so I don’t start to gap out!
There’s lots of different types of index cards out there! My enthusiasm about this matter depresses me in some way. Regardless, there are so many options. Last April I found spiral bound index cards. One word people, REVOUTIONARY! No more lost cards, no more cards out of sequence (this matters to me for studying). My card of choice this exam period, the Cadillac of index cards, the spiral bound double sided lined…sweet.
Now when I walk into the exam venue and pull out my mountain of flashcards, most people look at me as if I am a deranged over achiever. Let me assure you I am not.
Here’s the thing: this method works for me. It’s a hellish process, but it gives me consistently good results. Find your own method or try mine, I don’t mind. The point is that you need a plan. Mine is insane, but it’s mine. Yours might be reading through notes, rewriting notes, meeting in a study group. I think the worst thing you can do when preparing for an exam is nothing.