One of the most useful tools a professor can give their students is a study guide, yet, how do you make sure you get the most out of this resource? Sure, there are practice problems and study tips, but with a little bit of effort and planning, a study guide can become so much more than that.

  1. Create Your Own Study Guide First
    This may sound counterproductive at first but making your own study guide before you review the one given to you by your professor is a great way to assess your understanding of the material. Start by dividing the information into sections based on lecture, common themes, or types of tasks. Then, write down important topics, key words & definitions, as well as any formulas or diagrams that can help you with the material. Highlight key words & phrases. You can also consider making a table of contents for your study guide to make navigation easier.

    Once you’ve created your own study guide, then you can refer back to the study guide your professor made. Use the professor’s study guide to supplement your own work by adding in content or practice problems from the professor’s guide into your own. If you see any content that you do not understand – or information that you did not include in your own guide – this is a signal to you that you need to review that information further.
  2. Use the Professor’s Guide as a Practice Test
    Study guides for problem-based exams often feature practice exercises. Use these problems as a practice test before you begin studying. Once you’ve completed the practice test, grade yourself & look for patterns in the types of questions you missed. This will help you focus your study sessions on these topics.

    You can also create a common error log as you analyze incorrect questions. This will help you highlight which concepts need more review & allow you to create a game plan for what needs to be done moving forward.
  3. Compare the Study Guide to the Exam
    This tip is particularly helpful later in the semester. Once you have taken at least one quiz or exam for the class, go back & compare that assessment to the study guide. How were the questions similar? What was on the exam that the study guide did not prepare you for? This knowledge will help you prepare for future assessments. When in doubt, you can always approach your professor & ask, “how do you recommend I prepare for this exam?”
  4. Add to the Professor’s Study Guide
    Study guides are often fairly one-note in the way they deliver information. Consider looking at the topics your professor includes in the study guide and adding in your own diagrams, webs, or other graphic organizers to help you arrange the information in a different way. This type of engagement with the material will allow you to dig deeper into your understanding of the concepts than reading alone.
  5. Use the Study Guide to Seek Help
    Study guides aren’t the only resources available to you when it comes to exam success. Use the information on your study guide to pinpoint which topics/question types are the most challenging for you. Then, bring that information with you to coaches, tutors, or even the professor during office hours.