How to Ace your Next Test: Working Smarter not Harder

Want to make your study effective? Are you failing to get the best results despite your best efforts? What if I tell you that your studying process needs to change? Although you are studying hard, you are not studying smart. Let us take a deep dive into how to study effectively, the step-by-step process to ace your next test.

We are not going into details of a perfect -study environment. Let us jump to the point and learn to study effectively. After reading this content you will be able to schedule and organize your studying method and boost your performance.

Review the Information Covered in Lessons

If you want to retain more information about whatever you are learning, the first thing you got to do is to review the whole lesson. Try to get an idea about the entire text. Do not try to read anything; only pick up the keywords. You can use your intellect to connect dots that are similar to this topic. Think about what you already know about the lesson, including any notes that you have taken during, before, or after class. Developing the study habits to use your class time wisely is very important in this regard. This internalization will make your brain ready for information and your study effective. When you think you have a good understanding of all topics covered, move to the next step.

Understand The Topic to Study Effectively

Most students hate to cram their lessons, but they do it anyway. Students believe cramming is the only way to learn any topic. But in reality, cramming helps you to remember your lessons for the short term.

If you want to remember any text for a more extended period, you have to understand the ins and outs. Try to understand every nitty and gritty of the topic and review any question that arises in your mind.

You might fail to understand a topic the first time; try to reread the text. If you still feel difficulty, you can always use online resources. Your teachers and mentors can also help you out in this regard. But I would suggest you try to understand it yourself first by reading the text alone. Understanding something on our own helps us to form better neural connections and boosts the retention of information resulting in effective studying.

Make Questions for the Active Recall Method


Over the years, we have practiced many passive ways of studying. According to research, these passive techniques, namely highlighting, rereading, and making notes, while helpful, are significantly less effective in long-term retention. The most effective way to study is to use active recall techniques, like flashcards, tests, quizzes, etc. We generally think of studying as putting something into our brain, but it is entirely the opposite.

When we try to recall or recollect any data from our brain, it creates more robust neural networks resulting in increased retention.

Start making questions and flashcards about the topic that you just understood. Make question sets in such a way so that your answers would cover the whole chapter. If you like making digital notes, you can use Anki or Quizlet to make flashcards. Make separate decks for separate topics or lessons.

Review Questions using Active Recall Techniques

After you finish making all the questions either in your notebook or through flashcard apps:

  1. Try to go through all the questions.
  2. Do not try to memorize the answers.
  3. Express the answers in your way.

If you fail to answer any question, do not be demoralized. Look up the text’s answer and mark the specific problem that you could not answer with a different colour.

Through active recalling, you will see that these marked questions are the ones that you will remember the most.

If using digital flashcards, try to put up an explanation for all the answers. Providing explanations for answers will give you much more clarity on the topic. There is no alternative to the active recall technique if you want to study effectively.

Explain it to others for effective studying


Now that you have consumed data about the specific topic, you should try explaining it to others. While presenting, remember to use the most straightforward metaphors and examples. Make sure the explanation is within the level of the other persons’ intellectual ability.

According to Feynman, if you can’t explain any topic to a child, you probably don’t understand it very well. The better you can describe a specific topic, the better your retention and comprehension are about the topic. This is known as the Feynman Technique It is even said that you only understand a lesson entirely if you can explain the same topic to a five-year-old.

I would not suggest you try that. But teach others about what you have learned and explain it in the easiest way possible. Your understanding of a particular topic will become clearer as you explain it to more people.

Learn from Different Angles for Effective Studying

If you want to comprehend what you learn, try to learn the same thing from various sources and ways. I know this might be confusing, but I can assure you that it works.

If you have learned something by reading a topic, next time, find a different approach, maybe through the youtube videos or the class lectures, or even both. Try to use a mix-up between various sources and angles of information. You can even try to learn it from your friends who have also gone through the text.

Learning from various sources will help build more connections to the same topic from different angles resulting in increased memorization.

Space out Your Studying

Effective studying means better memorization, retention, comprehension & understanding. We all think it is hard to forget than to remember, but you are more likely to retain any information if you use spaced repetition.

If you have heard of the forgetting curve, you will understand that you are very likely to forget the information you procured after a certain period. But spaced repetition can straighten the forgetting curve. You can use spaced repetition for studying effectively in the following way.

  • After learning for the first time, go through the questions immediately.
  • After a week, try to recall the answers. Mark the ones you fail to remember.
  • Again go through the questions after one or two months.
  • Try to go through the question after six months again.
The Forgetting Curve

You don’t have to reread, highlight or go through your notes. Only solve the questions that you already made for that specific topic after a particular interval. Spaced repetition will straighten your forgetting curve and seal information in your brain forever.


Studying is easy when you know how to study. Effective studying is a skill that everyone should try to acquire. Anyone can use these techniques and strategies to learn any skill. Apply them accordingly to get the best out of them.

Let us review the whole step-by-step process of studying effectively.

  1. Skim through the text
  2. Understand the topic
  3. Make question sets or flashcards.
  4. Review the questions by active recall technique
  5. Explain it to others
  6. Learn the information from various sources
  7. Use spaced repetition.

This step-by-step process will help you to study effectively and increase the retention of information.

What to do now?

If you want to know more about learning, memorizing, and how our brain works, I would recommend reading the following book.

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About the Author

Hello, my name is Moinul – The Happy Nerd! I am a 4th-year medical student studying at Dhaka Medical College.

I share study hacks, productivity tips, and personal growth tips which have really helped me in my life to become a happier and efficient person. I love to teach students what I learned so that every student can maximize their potential and find the ultimate road to success in life.

My official website is: 

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