Proper Test Etiquette- Studying

I understand it can be difficult to prepare a test, you might not know where to start, so allow me to help you.


Studying is the key to success; make sure you’re fully comprehending what exactly you’re doing. (Image by Pixabay)

By Zenobia Wiley, Copy Editor

Tests suck. They really do.

They can be difficult, complex, and sometimes take way too much time. And don’t even get me started on finals week. As a freshman, it sucks. As a sophomore, it still sucks, but not as much since there are more exemptions. As a junior, then a senior, the worry goes away less and less…with finals anyway.

…studying needs to be an everyday thing, not a two-weeks-before-finals thing, although that’s great too.

Don’t get me started on AP exams either.

Learning how to study for a test is a skill all students need to master! With the right preparation, it’ll have nothing on you—long as you’re willing to put in the work. I’m about to hit you with big news, and it’s going to hurt: studying should be an everyday thing, not a two-weeks-before-finals thing, although that’s great too.

Like PrepScholar says, it’s about “finding a right balance between concentration, understanding, retention, and rest.”

Developing Good Study Habits                                               

Learning how to study, and do it consistently takes dedication. The way our brains work, the best way to be consistent is to have a set schedule so your brain can adapt it into your day-to-day routine. With practice, sitting down to study for some extra time will become easier and easier after each attempt.

In regards to doing your homework, it’s important to put forth around 50 to 75 minutes of study time. No, it doesn’t all have to be at once, it can easily be broken apart. Here are two examples from PrepScholar:

4:30–5:00 – arrive home, eat a snack, relax

5:00–5:30 – first study chunk

5:30–6:30 – break/homework/other task

6:30–6:45 – second study chunk

6:45–7:30 – dinner/assignments/other task

7:30–8:00 – final study chunk                                                  


4:30–5:00 – arrive home, eat a snack, relax

5:00–6:15 – study time

6:15–rest of evening – dinner, break, homework, other tasks


Whether you’re the type of person who works better when you don’t have to do everything at once or the type who likes to get a task over with and move on, find what works for you. And then stick to it.

“But Zenobia, I Don’t Need to Study Every day!”

Sticking to a schedule will keep you from attempting to cram things at the last minute, which exhausts your brain power. Sure, you might study the night before a quiz or a test, no problem. Maybe even two days before. Sure, it might “work”, and you’ve gotten used to cramming and getting an A or a B. However, this is only a short-term solution, and when more important tests like AP exams and finals come around, you won’t be ready, not in a way that will last.

Plus, forcing your brain to adapt to such a “solution” has the long-term effect of making any chance of studying in the future that much harder. Somebody order a Stress Increase? Don’t make it harder on yourself, set yourself up for long-term knowledge.


The environment you place yourself in makes all the difference; it can give you the mindset to complete the task at hand. Have a couple places dedicated solely to studying—this doesn’t mean areas where you simply “hang out”. Pick a place you can get to consistently, and only to get work done. Then, commit to that location.

Also, the best kind of studying is the kind where you feel completely comfortable; there are no other distractions or discomforts to keep your brain from focusing on the task at hand. Whether you prefer to invite some friends and work together (or not), find what works for you.

Coffee shop, library, home, music*, silence. Whatever. Explore different options until you’ve found the one.

*It’s a proven fact that music without words increases productivity, and music with words decreases it. Just an FYI.

Good Hygiene

Good study hygiene is separating work from rest, in order to be consistent and focused. Once a study space is found, there are rules that need to be followed:

  1. No. Studying. On the bed. Period. This is literally synthesizing work and rest, and will, in turn, produce no productivity and focus whatsoever. A desk, table, couch, the floor, I don’t care. Anything besides the bed.
  2. No Distractions. Put the phone somewhere far away, plan a snack beforehand so you don’t go on any adventures to the kitchen, and turn that computer’s Wi-Fi off unless you need it for homework. I promise all of these things can wait.
  3. Comfort and Care are Key. Don’t forget to bring a few water bottles, bring a jacket or hoodie (no blankets, you’ll just get sleepy), snacks, coffee/tea. Whatever helps you focus comfortably because if you’re not, you’ll be too busy focused on that to get anything done.

Find a Study Method

There’s no point in making a whole schedule and finding a study space if you don’t actually know how to study. No, I can’t say there’s an exact formula for it, but it’s up to you to figure out what works best. A couple of examples are:

Rewrite or Rephrase – This doesn’t always simply mean reading a text and talking to summarizing it at the end. No, some things are just way too long for that. If you’re having to read for subjects like English & History, there are definitely more than 1,000 words involved.

Try summarizing at the end of each paragraph instead of the entire piece of writing. Whether you’re speaking aloud, in your head, or jotting some notes down, it’s important to make sure you understand. This also reduces the “need” to look at the paper when paraphrasing—you literally just read it.

Be a Teacher for a Minute – Teaching someone else is another way to ensure you know what you’re talking about. This could be a friend, family member, a dog, or a stuffed animal for all I care, as long as you’re having to reiterate information. This method will force you to word things in new ways and comprehend how it all ties together.

Know When to Let Go

I get it, sometimes our minds are preoccupied, or a specific topic just doesn’t want to be understood. It’s okay. At some point, you’ll need to be able to recognize when your brain isn’t retaining focus or information, and you’ll simply move on to a different task, or a different study method.

Learning how to properly study is a skill that will benefit you for the rest of your life. Take it seriously, and do what you will with what I’ve given you. Good luck!