Study guides are an indispensable tool for any student. They help keep your notes organized and information accessible. If you compile information early enough in a semester, a study guide can become a useful tool not just for tests but also homework assignments and essays. If you're wondering how to make a study guide, we can help with that!
In this article, you'll find some helpful tips on how to make a study guide right for you. This article isn't a recipe for any particular study guide; instead, you'll find ideas on how to make a study guide in consideration of different learning styles. We'll also cover some behavioral changes which can help you get the most use out of a study guide with the least amount of stress.
The Benefits of Creating Your Own Study Guide
While the appeal of services like SparkNotes is undeniable, you will always be better served by making your own study guide. Pre-written online guides can be a great resource to supplement your own study guide with more information. They can also be good examples of templates on how to make your own study guide if you find one that works well for you. That said, the less you engage with the material, the less effective your study method will be.
Instead of viewing the creation of your study guide as a chore, consider it part of your studying. Organizing your notes into whatever type of study guide works for you will help you form a cohesive picture of the course material. It will help you more than pouring over a pre-written guide the night before the test—and that's assuming you can find the right style of study guide. Which brings up the best benefit of creating your own study guide: Study guides can be specifically tailored to your learning style.
Some people learn fantastically by reading and watching information, other people through listening and others still by getting their hands dirty. These broad differences in the way people absorb information are referred to as learning styles. You're probably already familiar with your own learning style. You may love lecture classes but hate reading assignments. You may love video presentations but hate seminars. You may adore practical labs while having trouble keeping up in a lecture.
Learning styles are divided into three categories:
Auditory learners excel at remembering the information they hear and benefit from lessons presented in a lecture style. Visual learners are excellent at remembering words they've read or information presented visually, such as in a graph or a chart. And finally, kinesthetic learners are best served by tying information to some physical activity, such as performing an experiment in a laboratory.
How to Make a Study Guide
Now that you've read a little about the basic merits of making your own study guide, here are some examples of how to make a study guide specific to your learning style.
How to Make a Study Guide for Auditory Learners
Have you ever spent hours staring at a page of a textbook only to absorb exactly none of the information? Can you rattle off a teacher's lecture word for word on demand? Then you might be an auditory learner.
Auditory learners keep information best when they hear it. This means that lecture environments are very effective for them. It can be very tempting for the auditory learner to not take notes during a lecture. They remember most of the lecture just by listening, and a page of notes will be useless for them, anyway. But do not be deceived! No matter your learning style, taking notes is still an essential part of how to make a study guide, regardless of the subject.
While a page of scrawled notes may be useless by themselves down the line, taking down information during a lecture is still of vital importance. Even the smartest auditory learner only has so much of an attention span in a class which can run between one and four hours.
If you're an auditory learner, once you have your notes organized, consider reciting them to yourself. Or if that seems too silly, record them on your phone or computer to play back later. If you're able, you can also try convincing a friend or roommate to read your study guide to you.
How to Make a Study Guide for Visual Learners
Do you live for flowcharts? Are you terrible at those ‘guess the lyric' games? Then you might be a visual learner. Visual learners are best served by studying from power points, textbooks, info-graphics and other primarily visual methods of studying.
Similar to auditory learners, it can be tempting for a visual learner to not take notes during a lecture and just read out of the textbook to study. Once again, don't fall into this false sense of security. Relative to an exam, a textbook contains a huge amount of extraneous information. Once again, even the smartest person only has so much of an attention span. Not to mention that for many teachers, especially in college, the textbook is a supplement for what the teacher is lecturing, as opposed to being a guide that the teacher is lecturing to.
For the visual learner, one of the biggest challenges to studying is organizing information into a format that's easy to process. While a visual learner may have an easier time memorizing a page of text, it is still not ideal. Thankfully, many basic methods of organizing your notes will help you flourish here. Try color coding your notes by topic, unit, or date depending on what works best for you. Organizing main ideas and their supporting concepts into graphs or flowcharts is a good place to start.
You can also organize your notes into a concept web. A concept web starts with the main idea in the center of the page in a circle; a summary or keyword will do. Then you similarly write out the supporting ideas or subjects radiating from the center circle with lines connecting them back to the center. If some supporting ideas are interconnected, you can also draw lines between them to signify their relation to one another. Eventually, a web-like pattern emerges, allowing you to track connected concepts visually. If your web becomes too convoluted to follow, consider breaking it up into multiple webs.
How to Make a Study Guide for Kinesthetic Learners
Have you been under-served by the education system for basically as long as you can remember? You're probably a kinesthetic learner. Kinesthetic learners have the hardest time in traditional classrooms. Teaching usually focuses on a lot of telling and showing information but not a great deal of physically acting while learning. Thus, kinesthetic learners thrive in lab sciences, art and drama while having a lot of difficulty in other subjects.
Kinesthetic learners have a highly developed sense of physical and spatial memory. Working with physical objects comes naturally while memorizing off of a page or a video does not. There are a lot of great examples of study methods for kinesthetic learners, such as incorporating studying into some physical game or acting out skits based on your notes. However, these methods take up a lot of space and time and require having a group of participants. If you're a person who needs to squeeze study time onto your morning bus ride, here are a few suggestions on how to make a study guide more accessible to the active learner.
A concept web, just like you read about for visual learners, is a very effective method for kinesthetic learners. Create the web as described above and use it as a map to trace your finger over the connected concepts. As you repeat this process, you'll link the concepts you need to study with your spatial memory.
Drawing can also really benefit a kinesthetic learner. If you find yourself predisposed to visual art, use that to your advantage while studying. Organize your notes into a traditional study guide and fill the margins with doodles relating to the subject. As you draw, you link the physical memory of drawing to your study guide. This technique works best if you have scratch paper or can draw in the margins of your exam. Just remember to keep your drawings simple and small so you don't lose time on the test. You may also find that writing out your study guide by hand will help you keep more information.
Getting the Most Out of Your Study Guide
Now that you've learned how to make a study guide for different learning styles, here are some good habits to adopt that will help you get the most out of your study guide.
Take Notes Early and Often
Taking notes during class is an essential part of how to make a study guide. It's tedious and often boring but so very important. At its most basic level, writing the information in your own words will help you keep more of it later. Taking your own notes also helps you filter the information in a textbook or from the teacher into a more accessible format. Your brain will naturally filter out what it sees as extraneous information as you write the parts of the subject that stick out to you.
You never have to worry about taking perfect notes the first time. If you miss something, you can always fill in the blanks by consulting your textbook and your teacher. What you can't do is fabricate an entire semester's worth of notes from your textbook or ask your teacher to recite weeks worth of classes for you specifically.
What's more, the notes you take in class are allowed to be messy. Your teacher may talk a mile a minute or you may just write a stream-of-consciousness. Perhaps something you thought would be a major point in the lecture was actually just a throwaway line. Whatever it is, your raw notes from class may be a jumbled mess. Don't worry about it; put a star or a check next to a topic you thought was important and pull those out later to organize into a more streamlined study guide.
Keep Your Study Guide With You
The next best thing you can do for yourself is to keep your study guide with you. Keep it in a folder in your bag or on your phone. That way, while you kill time waiting for the bus, grabbing food, or heading home, you can pull your study guide out and look it over.
Cramming the night before an exam, even with the most immaculate study guide, will do you very little good. You'll be much better served by looking over your study guide for an hour or two a day in the week leading up to the exam. By making sure you have your study guide with you, you can take full advantage of the lulls in your day to study so you have more time for other things.
Go Beyond the Textbook and Lectures
Finally, take advantage of the surrounding resources. Not every textbook or teacher will always explain something in a way that works for you. Instead of writing off information you don't understand, check if your teacher has office hours or if your class has a tutor who can offer you some clarity.
If you have neither, take to the internet! You live in the information age—no reason to not use that to your advantage. A quick Google search should lead you to multiple resources where you can find whatever you're stuck on explained differently. Just make sure to fact check any website you consult. And when you make your study guide, you have complete control of how you record your own material. There is no need to copy out of the textbook if the textbook isn't helping.
With these helpful tips on how to make a study guide, you should be able to craft one tailored to your individual needs. Remember that these are just a few suggestions on how to make a study guide. You may find that part of an idea works for you but the rest does not. Don't be afraid to experiment or use your resources in creative ways. Explore different formatting or programs that let you create your own quiz-style games. There's no wrong way to study if it helps you ace your next exam!