Even at the introduction level, psychology has a lot of information students need to understand in order to pass the class. This course consists of 3 exams and one final exam that covers over 20 lectures; that’s a lot of information to process! Luckily, there are helpful strategies to make sure you have a way to ace the class with no problem.
1. Go To Class
You’re paying to go here so you might as well go to class. The majority of exam questions are based on the discussion in the lecture. Prior to class, students should skim the book on the lecture that will be discussed that day, along with some definitions of terms so they aren’t totally clueless during the lecture. Along with attending the lectures, students should actively participate in class, such as paying attention, answering clicker questions, and taking notes. The professor even creates an outline of each lecture to help students stay on track and have sufficient notes to study for the exam. He also hints at important topics that might be on the test and puts extra information in the color green meaning it won’t be on the test. He really knows how to help you out if you pay attention!
2. Explain the Concepts in Your Own Words
Students should avoid memorizing what they wrote down word for word and instead think about the topics discussed in class in their own words. If you can teach yourself the topics (either speaking out loud or internally) without looking at the notes, it is more likely you will remember the information for the exam. If you’re ever bored or waiting for something, just start teaching yourself the difference between classical conditioning and operant conditioning to keep your mind busy. You will be learning and the time will fly by until you find something to do. Bonus: if you can relate the concepts to your own life, you’ll be able to remember it even more.
3. Create Your Own Exam Questions
The professor creates a study guide for students to help with studying, but he highly suggests students to create their own question. This is because students often just look for the answers in the lecture notes and copy word for word in the study guide without actually thinking about the concept. Creating exam questions forces students to think of every possible question the professor could ask. This way of thinking will help students understand the concepts’ meaning and not just its definition.
4. Don’t Rely on Flashcards
You probably know a person who carries stacks of flashcards everywhere they go, constantly flipping through cards trying to memorize concepts. Yet, previous research on Psych 100 exams have shown that students who used flashcards to study actually performed worse than students who didn’t use flashcards. Flashcards can help you memorize the definition of a topic but it doesn’t help you understand the meaning of the topic, let alone apply it to real-life situations. Exam questions will never ask for the definition of a word, but rather apply the concept in a real-life situation.
5. Connect Concepts Together
This is a strategy to connect similar concepts together. For example, pretend you just learned that neurotransmitters get reabsorbed back into the pre-synaptic nerve in the process known as reuptake You know that serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood, sleep, appetite, etc. Depression can cause a change in sleep, appetite, and mood so it has something to do with low levels of serotonin. Soon the concept SSRI makes sense because that stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, meaning reuptake will be blocked, so serotonin has more opportunities to connect to receptors on the postsynaptic cell to help with depression. I know, it’s a lot to think about, but that’s what your brain needs to do to make concepts make more sense.
6. Don’t Study All in One Night!
Pulling an all-nighter is never the answer for studying for this or any exam. You’re supposed to study for at least 30 minutes several days prior to the exam. The professor suggests that students just skim the lecture notes for about five minutes after every lecture to keep the information fresh in their brain. Students who study longer don’t necessarily get higher grades. Higher grades usually go to students who are smarter in their study time, spreading it out over multiple days. An hour of studying each day for a week is a lot better than 7 hours of studying for one day.
7. Talk to Your Professor!
If you’re still not understanding the information, go talk to your professor. They are just bored sitting in their room during office hours waiting for students to come and ask questions. The professor is more than happy to help you fully understand a concept by giving you multiple examples and strategies to help you remember the information. They do not want students to fail their class and will do what it takes to make sure you are ready to ace their exam.
With these strategies, students have no problem taking the psych exams and feel great after receiving their grade. A great strategy is to try these study methods together as this is a way to use concepts in a lot of different ways. This can further increase your memory and have a higher chance of acing the psych exams.