study skills what to do before you study

Study skills: 3 things you must do BEFORE you study

Katie Azevedo good habits, study skills, study tips

study skills what to do before you study

I talk (and write) all the time about different study skills and the importance of using study methods that a) match you as a learner, and b) match the material you’re studying. But this post isn’t about  how to use those study techniques. Instead, it’s about 3 things you need to do before you study. Yeah, there’s stuff you have to do before you study. 

1. Know what’s on the test

This tip might seem obvious, but sometimes it’s the obvious stuff that we overlook the most. You have to know exactly what you’re going to be tested on before you can even begin to study. (Study skills 101 here!) So before you begin studying, make sure you’re super clear about the topics you need to know and the questions you’ll be asked.

You might be told that “all of chapter 7” is going to be on the test, or you might be told more specifically what parts of chapter 7 you will need to know. Either way, ask your teacher for this information directly.

2. Get the information and the answers

Once you know what questions are going to be on the test, the next step is to go get the answers. Be as thorough as you can when gathering the information you need to answer the questions from step 1. To find this information, use your textbook, old quizzes, class notes, old worksheets, and Google.

You will use all of this information for step 3.

3. Make a study guide so you can test yourself

Some teachers give out study guides (if so, cool) or you might have to make your own. Here’s how to do that if you need help with this basic study skill. So the ultimate idea here is that you will need to test yourself as part of the study process. In order to do that, you should start by creating a Master Study Guide with all the questions (from step 1) and the answers (from step 2). Make this Master Study Guide very thorough and organized. You can do it digitally or on paper. This will become your answer key. In the image below, you can see the type of study guide that I make for myself: it’s a simple grid-table-thingy, and it works perfectly.

Next, create a BLANK study guide from the Master Study Guide you just made. If you’re using Google Docs, just create a copy of the guide and delete all the answers. It’s a little trickier if you’re making it by hand but you can try to make blank photocopies by blocking the answers with white-out or something. Once you have a BLANK version of your study guide, make a few copies of it.

study skills study guide

It’s the blank study guide that you’ll be using to study. Over and over again, try to fill in the missing information that you know … using the Master Study Guide as an answer key to correct it. You will know that you are ready to roll when you can successfully fill in an entire study guide without looking at the answer key.

Final note about study skills and preparing for study sessions

Developing your study skills takes preparation and practice. Re-reading a textbook or a bunch of notes the night before the test is a terrible idea, because we learn best when we study in short, frequent bursts over a period of time. Also, knowing what questions are going to be on the test, researching the answers, and then testing ourselves on our ability to recall these answers (using the blank study guides) is more than evidence-based practice: it’s also just good old common sense!

Want more study skills, tips and hacks? Check these out: