Tips to study for Language Exams
Study for exams can accumulate easily. Exams can test you on a lot of learned material and be very overwhelming. Sometimes it is hard to know where to even begin.
Research shows that consistent short study sessions over time work best, so the sooner you begin studying for that end of year exam, the better.
Before we get into some of the best strategies for successful study. It is important to mention some of the techniques that actually are not the most effective. Reading, highlighting, making notes and summarizing are some of the most typical ways in which you can study for exams however they have been proven to not be the most effective.
The main reason why highlighting text is generally a bad study strategy is that it is a passive activity that discourages you from actively engaging with the text as a whole. The same goes for reading. Even though this is a go-to strategy for most, studies have shown when students reread a textbook chapter, they have absolutely no improvement in learning over those who just read it once. Reading a text over and over will not identify where the learning gaps are, it will only give a false impression that what you are reading has gone into your long term memory. Summary writing is found to only be effective when the student picks out the most important parts of the text.
With that being said, let’s dive into the strategies that actually will help you with effective study so that you can be best prepared for your Language exam.
Begin your studies with a growth mindset and accept that there are going to be differences and inconsistencies in a modern foreign language and change your focus to remembering them instead of wasting your energy on complaining.
Set up a calm environment
You need somewhere you can study without any distractions. This should preferably not be your bedroom as this is associated with sleeping and relaxation. Possibilities include the kitchen, dining room or living room. No electronics should be in this room and distractions should be very limited. Supplies such as writing materials and tools needed should be nearby so you do not get distracted or have to leave your study spot. Having the same location will create an atmosphere where learning and study can thrive.
Identify your learning style
Every student learns differently. You are no different. Find out if you are a visual, auditory, kinesthetic or a reading and writing learner. This will affect how the information should be presented to you. For example, a visual learner will respond better to graphs, charts and diagrams whereas an auditory learner will prefer to hear the information whilst they study like watching a video or listening to a person speak the language.
Assessment and Read Aloud
Before you begin, you need to conduct a self-assessment to see where you are at. Write down and practice retrieving everything you already know for example about conjugating irregular verbs or the question words for answering comprehensions. Put away all your notes and materials and test yourself. This will help you identify what you already know and what you need to work on. This is where you can focus your study time. The feedback is instant and it saves so much time. Improvement will come with practice. When you are reading in a different language it is beneficial if you can read aloud. Studies show that if you learn things aloud that they will stay with you. This means you are working on speaking as well as writing, reading and spelling. Close your eyes immediately after and see if you can recall what you said.
Short Duration and Spaced Apart
Short, repeated sessions are better than one big chunk of study time. This is because synapses in your brain that help you remember different information work better when they are used spatially and repetitively. This means avoiding all-nighters, beginning your studies early in the year and also following a study plan. In order to remember material, space out your sessions accordingly. Vocabulary for example is best retained if you review it 1-2 days after the initial study session and again after 1 week or 1 month.
Study first thing in the morning
You have the most willpower in the morning time. Once you get the toughest part of your day over and done with, you will feel good about yourself and probably even motivated to do more. This is a technique called eating the frog. You identify your hardest task of the day and complete it early. This becomes habitual so you repeat this everyday.
When studying your second language, try to keep the context in mind. For example when you are learning different verbs, draw a real life picture to go along with the verbs. This is more effective than merely writing random words down on the page. Videos are also a great way to contextualize the language as they combine an audio and a visual context to the language. This will give the language you are learning meaning and also help you to use it in the future should you travel to another country.
Review each session after a few days by giving yourself a quick test. Immediate recall can increase retention by as much as 30% because it challenges the brain to reflect rather than re-read. It keeps the material for longer in your memory which is desirable come exam time.
Structure your studies over time so that all the work does not get too much for you. Distribute your studies evenly everyday. The consistency and spread out practice of the second language will help you retain the information better. Your brain will become trained to learn in these moments.
Find another student that you can work alongside. They can help to keep you accountable. It means you have someone to practice learning the material with. You can work on speaking the language as well as reading and writing it together. You can also make tests for each other and correct them. This is a fun way to recall information.
Listen to the language through songs, videos, TV series or podcasts. It is okay if you don’t understand everything word for word, you can practice piecing together the meaning with words you are already familiar with. You can also turn on subtitles so that you can read the words as you listen.
Explore different and fun ways to study. Using flashcards, different coloured pens, watching documentaries and even roleplaying will keep you focused and engaged. Use flashcards to pick out the most important things that you need to know such as irregular verbs and helpful phrases for essay writing. They are great reinforcement tools. Flashcards will help you focus each study session as they act as a summary of what you learned. They are also easy to carry with you right before you take your language exam.
Each study session should have a specific goal. Pick which aspect you want to work on whether it’s the verb tenses, vocabulary or phrases for essay writing. You should write down what you want to have learned at the end of the session to consolidate your learning. This will also help you with retention.
Try not to create anxiety before you take the exam. Instead, focus your attention on trying your best. You will have worked hard prior to the exam and a good night’s sleep is better than staying up late to cram in new content. Before your exam, take a deep breath, attempt the questions that you know in the beginning and skip the ones you are not as sure of. You will have ample time to go back over those questions you have skipped. Good stress management is a great skill that will benefit you in the long run long after you leave school.
If you haven’t already, take a look at the preparation courses we offer abroad to help you with your studies.