The weeks of tea, late nights, frantic note-taking, and falling asleep on random people in the common room is over. I finally finished taking my Sickeningly Awful Testing exam (SATs) and let me tell you–our entire house is beyond relieved. When they say Ravenclaws are intelligent, they’re not lying. But that also means there’s a ton of pressure on everyone to get Es on our exams, since we’re supposedly really clever. Well, clever doesn’t always mean intelligent (I didn’t feel very confident on the Arithmancy sections, but then again I never have excelled in that area), but when everyone around you is studying like their life depends on it, you tend to get some death glares when you’re caught scrolling through Reddit. So I studied too and did fairly well on everything.
However, as one of the Ravenclaws who falls more under the “creative” label of our house rather than “clever,” I didn’t always make the greatest study decisions. I stressed out and ended up cramming a lot during the end instead of preparing well, so as a result I lost sleep and didn’t take care of myself really well. So here’s a reflection to help any exam-takers (whether you’re attending a magic school or a regular public one) the next time you have a big test coming up.
1. Start studying as early as possible. We had people in year 7 studying for NEWTs like two months before their tests, and a few of my room mates started cracking open to older sections in textbooks to start reviewing a few weeks later. It’s always, always better to start studying as early as you can. Next year, I’m planning on taking really detailed notes and studying on a regular basis to keep up my memory. (Especially American Muggle Studies… Professor Sasse gives awful tests.)
2. Figure out what actually helps you to study–not what people say will help you study. I grew up taking lame “study skills” classes once a week before I transferred to Hogwarts, and they all tell you the exact same things. “Make flash cards, listen to recordings, watch videos, read the text book, take good notes…” That’s not bad advice, obviously. It’s just advice that literally everyone has heard before. And that’s a problem, because the fantastic truth is that every single person is an individual and studies differently.
What does that look like for me? Well, I study better alone, at a clean desk, with a mug of tea. The way I study to remember the information is usually re-writing the material into detailed notes and making flashcards for things I need to memorize. Others study better with other people to keep them on track, or they might do better re-reading the textbook cover to cover. Some like to make colorful charts or find online videos and songs with the information they need to remember. Experiment a little and find something that makes you feel the most confident and knowledgeable. If you’re walking into tests truly worried about how you’re going to do, you’re doing it wrong.
3. Make a plan. This might be something that mostly helps me, because I’m a very list-oriented person, but making a schedule or list of all the things you need to study is really important. If you just say, “Oh, I need to study for Potions,” and then you sit down at your desk with your book and cauldron, you’re going to have a pretty foggy idea of what studying for Potions actually entails. Pay attention to what you’ve been struggling with in class, and take that list into your study session. Practice and study what you normally forget, and give yourself permission to skip over things you already know pretty well. You can come back to them if you’re still worried, but start with the hard stuff and then move on once you’ve got it down.
4. Actually stick to the plan. Here’s where you have to hold yourself accountable to actually sitting down and using the study methods you know work for you. This step is about getting rid of distractions and actually making time to study.
I tend to be distracted by a lot of internet-related things: Tumblr, Facebook, DeviantArt… In the past, I’ve actually gotten someone to change my passwords for me so that I don’t log in at all. It’s very annoying, but very motivating. Turning off internet or blocking access to certain sites is also really good. I use a Chrome extension called StayFocusd, which will give you a certain number of minutes to browse blocked sites and will then shut you out from them when time’s up.
Additionally, just getting away from the distractions is the best option. Whenever I’m on a computer, distraction is inevitable at some point–I like having my notes on paper so that I can take them somewhere computer-free to study. The best way to get rid of distractions is for me to sprawl out on my bed with a textbook, my notes, and some colorful pens; do whatever you need to to get away from procrastination temptations–which leads me to my next point.
5. Location is key. Some people study best in their room, surrounded by books and other comforts of home. Others like to study at their desk where they usually do homework. Sometimes a simple change of surroundings will get you in the mood–perhaps moving from your desk to your dining room table. Other times, though, you need a drastic change of scenery. Whenever I’m feeling particularly unproductive, I like to grab a few friends and go to Hogsmeade to get a mug of butterbeer and sit down to study. Coffee shops and cafes are perfect study environments.
6. Don’t stress yourself out! I see this all the time when NEWTs roll around–7th years begin having panic attacks in the Ravenclaw common room staring as far back as March. You’re never going to retain information when your body is pumping adrenaline in a fight-or-flight response; if you’ve followed all of these tips (or even if you haven’t) the best way to study is to just relax and just do it. What’s done is done, and there’s no need to stress over what you can’t do when it’s more productive to plan out what you can.
I wish you the best of luck in your own revising endeavors! You don’t have to be a Ravenclaw to do well on your exams–you just have to have determination and organization. So what are you waiting for? Pace yourself, get organized, and get studying! Oh, and make a cup of tea while you’re at it. It helps more than you’d think. 😉