WRITTEN BY ANYUN CHATTERJEE (PEACE ADVISOR)
· Reviewing notes - for me, looking over my notes is pointless unless I do it within a day of the lecture. Also, I have to actively read my notes, which is to say I'm either highlighting or annotating my notes in some way. Every night - I mean every night. The more consistently you study the more you will retain. 2-3 hours every night working problem sets or looking at old tests gets you used to thinking the way you need to be thinking for your classes. If you load up on theory but don't start work on application until a week before exams you're gonna have a hard time.
· Sleep - we all know sleep is good for retention but most of us still get like 6 hours when we're lucky. This is where time management comes in. Either plan your classes later, or end them earlier so you can relax and study before going to sleep and still get enough rest to function well the next day. 6-8 hours of sleep after a couple hours of studying makes a tremendous difference in how much your studying pays off.
· Weekends - since studying at night is impossible if you want to have a social life on the weekends, study right after you wake up. Same thing - problem sets, active review, maybe some webcasted lectures or Khan Academy. Just do something so that the material gets refreshed in your mind even on the weekend. There's nothing wrong with taking it easy on the weekend, although if you want to buckle down and study for 8 hours straight there's nothing wrong with that either.
Overall - with STEM material, the key is not memorization or "knowing all the material" - it's becoming familiar with how each course needs you to think about problems. The more consistently you practice that type of thinking, the easier it will be for you to apply theoretical knowledge on exams. That is not to say theoretical knowledge is not important, it's the bulk of what you need to know and that's why you go to lecture and review notes. You just need to be able to look at a problem on an exam and have a strategy for problems like that you've been applying to your practice everyday for the last two weeks. After that, the problem solving becomes second nature and instead you can focus on the application of what you've learned.