How I Study Like a Boss: 5 Tips To Reduce The Stress of Studying for Exams

This is me as a freshman, studying for my first round of finals. #Help

I hate taking exams. I would rather write a big, long paper than take an exam. But, you can be a lot less stressed for exams if you know how to study and figure out a study method that works best for you. Also, if you know how to study, you can see an improvement in your grades and your GPA! Here is my favorite way to study:

1. Set Yourself in Concentration Mode with Music

Not that I'm easily distracted, but I have found that it is much easier for me to study if I get in the zone, like in my own little bubble. I like to listen to music without words to help me tune out noise.

If you go to Youtube and search something along the lines of "music for studying" or "music for concentration," you should get a lot of results. Click here to go to my favorite study music on YouTube.

Or, I have also found that it works really well for me to have these three tabs open in the background:

So if you ever think that it's too quiet to study, or too loud and you need to block out noise, these background noises work magic and won't distract you!

2. Read Through Your Notes

You took notes in class, so start off by reading through them. This will help you familiarize yourself with all of the material that you've covered.

3. Study Guide

I have had IU professors who gave out study guides, which is really nice. It usually is a list of all the terms and topics that you should know. If the study guide is an electronic file, add your own information to it in Word. I like to go through the study guide and define all of the terms and find all of the information associated with things you may be asked to expand on. If your professor posts the PowerPoint slides, you can copy and paste directly from those. When I'm done turning the study guide into an ultimate information guide, I print it out because it helps me to read and study with a hard copy rather than read it on my computer screen.

I have also had IU professors who have said "Anything could be on the test, so just study everything." This makes things harder, but you can still study well. First off, there's a good possibility that this class may have been taught in the past by a professor who included a study guide. Try Googling your class and add "study guide," and maybe you'll get lucky and find a study guide. This has happened to me and it was a relief -- an essay question on the test turned out to be from the study guide I found on Google. Also, try looking around on your class's Oncourse page. Sometimes professors post resources for tests that they may or may not have mentioned.

Also, if you don't have a study guide, you can use your notes to double as a study guide. That's why you should go to class and take good notes!

With any test "study guide" document that I can find, I add definitions/information to it and print it out. I like paper copies. If I'm using my notes, that's cool too because they have lots of info and are already in hardcopy form.

If you want to really over prepare, which is not at all a bad thing, you can write down/copy the information from your study guide on your computer onto a notebook or onto index cards to help you study. This can be really time consuming, but if you have the time, why not? Preparation is key!

So now you have all your info in a hard copy. This brings me to the next step...

4. Highlighting

Read through everything you are studying in your study guide/notes/index cards, and decide what is important. Highlight as you go. Here is my trick: I highlight general terms/topics in one color and use a different color for definitions/important info. ALSO, I like to highlight words so that I will be able to go back to the study guide later and be able to know the information or definition by just reading the highlighted portion. This makes it really easy to skim my notes later.

Try not to highlight the entire page! Remember, the goal is to make it easy to read later so you can know everything just by reading the highlighted words.

For example:For me, having the term/idea/topic highlighted in a different color helps me go back and find it easier.

I copied the paragraph from a class PowerPoint and highlighted the important parts.

Now I can read just the words highlighted in yellow and know the definition/key points. Instead of reading the whole paragraph, I just read:

Battle of Leuctra:

  • 371 BCE
  • Thebans vs. Spartans
  • 400 Spartiates killed
  • Theban general liberated the helots
  • end Spartan significance
  • etc.

Yay college!

5. Repetition

So now you have your notes/study guide. And everything important is highlighted. You've made it really easy for yourself to skim your notes/study guide. So now, I would probably read everything you've highlighted about as many times as you can, and then a hundred more times. It will seem like overkill, but there is nothing wrong with being too prepared! It is so much better to be over-prepared than under-prepared!


Make sure you situate yourself in a good study spot, where ever that may be for you! Check out these blogs about study spots on IU's campus:

AND one more thing; check out these other blogs about study habits:

You can do it! I believe in you!

About The Author
Anne RileyAnthropology Major, Tutor, Volunteer, Class of 2016

I'm in the class of 2016, I'm from Greenwood, IN, and I'm majoring in anthropology with minors in Spanish and geography at Indiana University! I am most interested in studying biological anthropology and archaeology. Last summer I went on my first archaeological dig, 6 weeks of backcountry camping in Yellowstone National Park - it was awesome!

I am a member for IU's chapter of Global Brigades where I am a part of the Water Brigade - over spring break we went to Honduras to build sustainable water collection and filtration systems to bring clean water to rural communities that don't currently have access to safe water. This year we are planning another brigade to Ghana in May!

I intern in the Anthropology Department's Zooarchaeology Lab (zooarchaeology = zoo + archaeology = animal bones). My goal for future semesters is to also have a museum internship. I also work as a tutor with the writing center, Writing Tutorial Services (WTS). I am a musician as well and have played flute in the All-Campus Band; although I also play piano and saxophone. And of course, I am a student blogger for!

I also love:

  • Indiana basketball
  • the SRSC
  • indie rock music
  • travel
  • Pizza X
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • long walks on sandy beaches

I'm psyched to share my experiences and advice! Thanks for reading and GO HOOSIERS!