How to study

Studying for a test or exam in the “Big Four�? subjects requires THEORY and PRACTICE, in that order. One is useless without the other. In other words, it does not help to only study your notes and summarise them (THEORY) without practicing some examples (PRACTICE), just like it doesn’t help to only go through a past test or exam (PRACTICE) without having gone through your notes first (THEORY). You must do BOTH if you hope to do well in test or exam.

Step 1: THEORY: Study and summarise your notebook!
In this step, you read through your notebook and textbook, summarising all important formulae, rules, theorems, proofs, processes, concepts and methodologies on however many pieces of paper it takes. Memorise these summaries (you should be able to reproduce them without looking at your notes), as you will not have access to any such resources in a test situation. You do NOT do any actual examples in this step (i.e. by the end of this step, you should NOT have done any actual exam or test problems yet).

Step 2: PRACTICE: Go through work examples and exercises!
In this step, you start practicing how to use the theory that you memorised in Step 1. There are a number of sources you could use for this initial practice. I recommend working through the following things: worked examples presented in class; exercises from the textbook (including those “mixed exercises�?, “check your skills�? and “extend your skills�? at the back of each chapter in the textbook); and revision worksheets provided by your teacher at school. If you can’t do a problem, look at worked examples that are similar to the problem to get an idea of how to solve it OR look at the memo for the problem OR ask a friend for help OR ask your teacher. But make sure that you go through the problem yourself after getting help so that you know you could do it during an exam when you don’t have any help available!

Step 3: SIMULATE AN EXAM: work through a past assessment
In this step, you put yourself in an exam situation. Use exam past papers, give yourself the amount of time that you would be allowed in an actual exam, and work through it WITHOUT looking at a memo or your notes or asking a friend/teacher for help. ONLY when you are done with the exam may you look at the memo and see how you did. If you’re happy with the mark you achieved (under strict test conditions), your studying is done! Hooray! But if you’re not happy with the mark you achieved, use the test to see which areas of study need more work. Then go to your teacher for further help!

I have bad news and I have good news. The bad news is that this takes time. You’re looking at 5 hours minimum (for a 1-hour test) if you study like this. If you’re studying for a 3-hour exam, you should be looking at a minimum of 15 hours per exam. Do NOT do this all in one night. Spread it over a week, at least! The good news is that, if you study like this, the marks will follow! All you need is discipline and determination! 

Read how you can warm up your brain before a test.