8 Steps to the Perfect Study Guide

Have you always dreamed of making a crème de la crème, all-encompassing, instagram-worthy study guide - but don't know where to start? Read on to discover how to make your study guide the envy of all your classmates, with guidance from our Head Tutor, Mimi.

1. Read

Before we can get into the fun bit where we pick our colours and our fonts, we first have to see who’s coming along for the ride! By that we mean, what information is going to make it into our study guide.

To start, you’ll want to track down all of your course notes, your textbook, and any other sources you used during your studies. Ensure that you have these materials as hardcopies (printed) or digital (pdf. files) - that way you can highlight important information as you read! Now all that’s left to do is, well read! Easier said than done though. Make sure to put aside enough time to read and review your materials well before you start your study guide. You’ll want to skim over all your information so that transferring the important information to your study guide is much easier! Find a cozy nook somewhere quiet, and get reading!

2. Include a Vocabulary List

Include a vocabulary list at the beginning of your study guide. Use the vocabulary list to test yourself and help build active recall skills.

On exams, vocabulary questions come up in multiple choice, true or false, or matching style questions, where you’ll need to actively recall terms and their definitions to earn the point. Active recall is essentially when your brain searches through its many files to find the right piece of information for the job. The more you practice active recall, the faster you will be able to retrieve information, and the more neural connections you will build!

PRO TIP - Use Quizlet to test yourself

Looking to save time? Rather than writing out all the definitions in your study guide, write all of your terms and use Quizlet to make digital flashcards for the definitions. Test yourself using the ‘Learn’ option or make a game out of it, using my personal favourite, the ‘Match’ option. How fast can you match your terms to their definition?! My record for 100 terms is 62.0 seconds! 🥊 🥊 🥊

3. Highlight Key Terms and Ideas

A great study guide condenses information as much as possible. But even then, you should highlight your key terms and key ideas to make them stand out (i.e. the spring peeper is a small chorus frog found in many parts of North America). Highlighting words or phrases allows you to slow down your reading, and draws your attention to the most valuable information of the text.

Pro tip - Finding your key ideas

Read one paragraph at a time without highlighting, then ask yourself, if I had to pick one or two important ideas from that paragraph, what would they be? Highlight away! If you read just the highlighted text, does the information make sense?

Pro-Tip - Use Weava to highlight digital resources

A lot of study material is digital, and unless we print everything out (not tree-friendly!), highlighting and condensing a challenge. I use Weava - a Chrome Extension that allows you to highlight websites! Plus, it saves all of your highlights, and comments in its online drive so you don’t have to keep going back to the source!

4. Add Your Own Branding

Little did know that creating the perfect study guide would transform you into the marketing head of your own company! Congratulations. This is YOUR time to shine! Let that creativity flow!

Here’s our quick branding guide:

  1. Pick a colour theme using Coolors (and stick to it!)

  2. Decide what each colour means (i.e. yellow = important terms/ideas; blue = sample solution; red = challenging concepts),

  3. Pick two fonts (one for titles and one for text)

  4. Incorporate a coding system (see the next point!)

5. Create a Hierarchy

Did you know that bullet points make our subconscious happy? Bullet points keep our study notes organized, allowing us to quickly scan through our information to find just what we need!

Here are a couple things to keep in mind for the perfect bullet system:

  • Use subtitles

  • Indent bullet points to indicate more specific information about the topic

  • Keep your bullet points short and sweet (one or two lines!)

  • Use different levels (indentations) to dive deeper into each point

  • Use different bullet symbols to represent various study components (• main ideas; ◦ vocabulary; ‣ equations)

6. Include Diagrams

We all learn and absorb information in different ways, but adding diagrams to your study guides will benefit every type of learner. Visuals help you retain information longer compared to plain text. This is partly because visuals force the mind to slow down and make sense of the visual in front of us. Diagrams are also a great starting point for quizzing yourself! (Can you identify all the parts of the digestive system? Can you name all the DR MRS VANDERTRAMP verbs by looking at a picture of a house on a hill?!)

Interested in taking it to the next level? Creating your own diagrams to boost comprehension even further! I love using Goodnotes with my iPad and Apple Pencil to spice up my study notes. The best part is, I have all the colours in one pencil - talk about studying on the go! Check out this video by Emily Studying for some inspiration!

7. Handwrite it, don't type it!

While it may be tempting to take the quick route, typing out your study guide has been proven to be less effective than handwriting it . That’s because writing out your study guide forces you to slow down and think about the information. This ultimately helps build up your memory and allows you to get creative at the same time!

Feel like you’ve got the handwriting of a doctor or a kindergartener? Why not practice your handwriting skills? Try using a template like this one by Janice Studies. If you do type out your study guide, make sure you print it out! And be sure to give yourself some space to highlight, add diagrams, or comments once it's printed!

8. Invite a Friend

There’s a reason we say, ‘two heads are better than one’. While a Sunday study session might seem like the least appealing plan, settling into the Maison Library with your best friends for a relaxing study session sounds a whole lot more fun! Working with others to make study guides allows you to compare class notes, see things from a different perspective and of course, makes it more enjoyable! Feeling confident in your study guide? Use it to teach your friends! Explaining concepts to someone else will also help reinforce your understanding of it!

And if your friends can’t make it? Book-in a last minute tutoring session with one of our coaches, and work on your study guide together!

PRO TIP - Step up your group studying with Forest

Ready to hold yourself and our study buddies accountable? Forest is an app that encourages you to study distraction-free. While you study, your plant grows from a little seedling to a picture-perfect tree. If you swipe off the app, your tree dies! There's even a ‘plant together mode’, where the withering of one person's tree will cause the withering of everybody else’s trees! Who will cave and be the first one to open TikTok now??? Hopefully no one when an entire forest is on the line!!! Fun fact about Forest! They are partnered with Trees for the Future, an organization that takes the trees planted on Forest and turns them into real trees for our Earth! How cool is that?!

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