Study guides can provide you with a quick and easy way to review material before tests or exams. There are several basic study guide formats, and each one is designed to help you consolidate the information in a way that is accessible and easy to read. Some topics may be better suited to different study guide formats than others, but a study guide is only as good as the information you include in it. Make sure to extract information from reliable sources when creating your guide, and focus on organizing the material in a way that makes sense to you.
Part 1 of 3: Choosing a Format
Step 1. Make a concept map
Concept maps or branching diagrams are ways to track ideas so that you can easily follow information from general to specific. Concept maps are great for people who are visually learners. Also, they allow you to draw connections between things.
- An example of a concept map might be to place the title of a chapter in the center of the map and add lines that go to each main topic beginning in the chapter. So each topic can have lines leading to the supporting evidence, providing you with a simple visual map of the chapter's content.
- These study guides resemble flow charts and involve broad ideas with ramifications to subsidiary ideas.
- Concept maps allow you to organize information spatially and in an expansive network rather than in a linear format like most study guides.
- Start with a main topic in the center, then ramifications from it with supporting evidence.
Step 2. Create a comparison chart
Comparison charts are an easy way to organize the information you want to compare. This method is most effective if you are trying to establish similarities and differences between facts, theories, or topics.
- Comparison charts allow you to see the relationships between specific characteristics or categories.
- Comparison charts are particularly useful in science classes where you are trying to identify relationships between organisms.
- A good use for a comparison chart might be to identify the similarities and differences between the American and French Revolutions or something with elements that coincide and differ.
- Create a table with the topics listed in a column followed by columns for various pieces of information that relate to or differ from each other.
Step 3. Write concept cards
Concept cards are well-organized cards. They should generally be made in 3 by 5-inch or larger tiles. Concept cards are good for helping you memorize material and for self-testing in subjects like math, science, or history.
- Write the central idea or concept on the front of the card with the category (if there is one) and the source you used to obtain the information.
- Write the most important content regarding the idea or concept on the back of the card.
- Summarize the information to make it easier to review as you study.
Step 4. Make a summary sheet
The simplest and most common form of study guide is the summary sheet. Just start by summarizing important parts of your notes. Summary sheets are good for people to learn well by reviewing the material. They are particularly useful for History and Literature classes and require little memorization.
- Use section titles that are meaningful so that you can understand the concepts.
- It is one of the most comprehensive forms of study guides and is good for covering large amounts of the material.
- This method may not be time-effective as it may include unnecessary material.
Part 2 of 3: Prepare the Study Guide
Step 1. Gather all the fonts you will need
You will have to gather the information from various sources, so start putting it together. The more prepared you are to get started, the easier it will be to write your study guide.
- It will be much easier to make your study guide when you have all the sources you will need close at hand.
- All class assignments and materials can be valuable in creating a study guide.
- Gather your previous exams to find areas that you may have struggled with.
Step 2. Use the textbook as a source
Most classes are accompanied by one or more textbooks, which are invaluable sources when creating a study guide. Textbooks can help you clarify topics, organize material, and find definitions of important terms.
- Recheck the sections you covered in class or on assignments and look for important concepts.
- Make a note with words in bold or italics, as it can be important to the subject or to cover the information you need to know for the test.
Step 3. Extract information from your notes
Taking good notes in class can help you retain the information studied, but it can also serve as an important part of your study guide. Your notes can help you organize the material as well as to know which areas your teacher thinks are most important.
- Recheck your notes and highlight or underline the information that seems important.
- Focus on the concepts or parts that you think are especially important based on the readings and make sure the information is included in the study guide.
- Identify areas that you don't feel safe with throughout your notes. Research things you have questions about in your textbook and be sure to include that content in your study guide.
- The class printouts are also a valuable source, showing what the instructor thinks is important.
Step 4. Use the task as a guide
Homework assignments can show you what the teacher thinks is important and can give you an idea of what kinds of questions might appear on the test.
- Pay close attention to the things you screwed up on on your homework. Start by including those parts in your study guide.
- Homework can also serve as a reminder of all the material you have studied throughout the semester. Use it to structure the guide.
Step 5. Use the previous exams to guide you
The exams you have taken so far this semester are designed to test your understanding of the material, so they can be good review tools.
- Topics included in the previous exams will probably be included again in a final exam.
- Even if the new test has nothing to do with the old ones, they can show you what types of questions your teacher will ask and how he expects them to be answered.
Part 3 of 3: Organize Your Study Guide
Step 1. Divide the information into topics
Now that you have all the materials you will need to create your study guide, it is time to organize it. Organize the study guide in a way that makes sense to you and is easy to follow.
- If the test will consist of a portion of a textbook, you may need to divide the chapter material that appears in the book. For example, organize your study guide by chapters with background information or large concepts, such as nations for World History or regions of the body for Anatomy.
- Once you have identified in which generic topic the information should fall, you can use this premise to begin the approach of the study guide.
- As you fill out portions of the study guide and identify areas that you feel least confident about, focus on those areas of the study.
Step 2. Try these examples to help you organize your study guide
Dividing the information into easy-to-follow segments is important in making the study guide useful. Here are some examples to divide the information for various topics into segments that may be more manageable:
- The American Revolution can be divided by time periods on a summary sheet (such as "1750, 1760, and 1770 to 1781") or by events (such as the Sugar and Seal Act, the Tea Party, and the Declaration of Independence.), followed by supporting information for each category.
- The periodic table can be divided into flashcards so that you can memorize the abbreviation for each element.
- Academic psychological approaches can be divided into a concept map. It begins with a center circle called "psychological approaches" that has ramifications that include the dynamic approach, the humanistic approach, and social learning.
- Viruses or other biological concepts can easily be arranged in a comparison chart. If you study viruses, list them in the left column, then create columns for aspects of a virus (such as means of transmission, symptoms, and treatments).
Step 3. Don't put too much information in the study guide
The study guide is supposed to help you understand complicated topics, so keep it easy to understand and don't be afraid to exclude things that don't matter.
- Be very selective about the information you include in the study guide to avoid being discouraged when using it.
- You don't have to cover topics that you feel very comfortable with in depth. Instead, focus on the areas where you don't feel very safe.
- Regardless of which format you use, combine the information from each source into individual sections regarding each topic. For example, if your test is about the American Revolution, include all pertinent information from your notes, textbook, homework, and tests about Alexander Hamilton in one section of the study guide.
Step 4. Keep the visual presentation of the study guide simple
You should be able to refer to the study guide frequently, so make it as easy as possible to read and follow. Space, underline and highlight the text to differentiate the topics and to make it easier to find what you need.
- Use neat and clear writing to ensure that you understand everything that you have included in the study guide.
- Choose the correct type of study guide for your material so that the information you are looking for is easy to find.
- Be consistent in how you divide or separate sections so that you can easily identify when you have reached the end of one topic and start the next.