Avoiding Study Traps 6-10

6. “There’s Too Much To Remember”
Organize. Information is recalled better if it is represented in an organized framework that will make retrieval more systematic. There are many techniques that can help you organize new information, including:

  • Write chapter outlines or summaries; emphasize relationships between sections.
  • Group information into categories or hierarchies, where possible.
  • Information Mapping. Draw up a matrix to organize and interrelate material. For example, if you were trying to understand the causes of World War I, you could make a chart listing all the major countries involved across the top, and then list the important issues and events down the side. Next, in the boxes in between, you could describe the impact each issue had on each country to help you understand these complex historical developments.

7. “I Knew It A Minute Ago”
Review. After reading a section, try to recall the information contained in it. Try answering the questions you made up for that section. If you cannot recall enough, re-read portions you had trouble remembering. The more time you spend studying, the more you tend to recall. Even after the point where information can be perfectly recalled, further study makes the material less likely to be forgotten entirely. In other words, you can’t overstudy. However, how you organize and integrate new information is still more important than how much time you spend studying.

8. “But I Like To Study In Bed”
Context. Recall is better when study context (physical location, as well as mental, emotional, and physical state) are similar to the test context. The greater the similarity between the study setting and the test setting, the greater the likelihood that material studied will be recalled during the test.

9. “Cramming Before A Test Helps Keep It Fresh In My Mind”
Spacing: Start studying now. Keep studying as you go along. Begin with an hour or two a day about one week before the exam, and then increase study time as the exam approaches. Recall increases as study time gets spread out over time.

10. “I’m Gonna Stay Up All Night ’til I Get This”
Avoid Mental Exhaustion. Take short breaks often when studying. Before a test, have a rested mind. When you take a study break, and just before you go to sleep at night, don’t think about academics. Relax and unwind, mentally and physically. Otherwise, your break won’t refresh you and you’ll find yourself lying awake at night. It’s more important than ever to take care of yourself before an exam! Eat well, sleep, and get enough exercise!


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