5 Ways to Retain Information for Final Exams


Students at any grade level and studying any subject will have a textbook with hundreds of pages of pertinent information. Those pages will also contain things that are not covered on final exams but can easily distract students from the core elements or events they need to study. With all of this information to sift through it’s easy for students to become overwhelmed and give up. However, there are some excellent ways for students to recall what’s important in their textbook, so they know what to focus on for those all-important finals. In many cases the teacher will have provided a study guide but, even if they didn’t, the textbook would let students know what’s important.

1. Bold and highlighted terms

Any term or phrase that is in bold or highlighted is important. Students who are still learning how to discern important information can simply use the highlighted elements of the textbook. This can be especially helpful for students in younger grades who are still learning how to figure out which information is important and which information is not. Additionally, if students are studying for a cumulative exam, they may become immediately overwhelmed at the thought of reviewing 300+ pages. However, if students are only focusing on the essential items, those 300 pages will probably be more like 50 to 75 pages total (READ: “5 Tips to Avoid Burnout During Finals Week”).

2. The glossary

Nearly every textbook has a glossary. Most students don’t use the glossary or don’t even know that it exists. However, it’s one of the most crucial elements when it comes to recalling information within the textbook. It can be very frustrating for students to flip through page after page looking for the definition to a term from earlier in the semester. Students don’t need to do this. Rather, they can simply refer to the glossary for every vocabulary word that was listed within the book. For the most part, the glossary will include every bold term throughout the textbook.

3. Charts, graphs, and timelines

Students should also pay special attention to any graphs, charts, or timelines presented within the textbook. These things are shown in a visual element to emphasize that they are extra important. Additionally, students who respond well to visual study will be able to get a better grasp on these items. If students are looking at a timeline, for example, they will be able to tell when different events happened and how they correlate. Most students tend to skip over these items, but they are some of the most helpful elements when it comes to remembering important topics in a textbook (READ: 4 tips to study for a reading final).

4. The teacher’s study guide

If a teacher has provided a study guide, students should use this as their primary organizational tool. In many cases, the teacher will choose not to have a cumulative exam but rather focus on more recent chapters or pick chapters they feel are most important to test student’s knowledge of. For instance, students might be tested on chapters 6 to 7, 10 to 12, and 18 through 21. If this is the case, students wouldn’t want to waste time reviewing chapter 8 and 9. Students should always review the teacher’s study guide before starting their textbook review.

5. Determining key information from unnecessary information

One of the most difficult study skills to pick up, regardless of the subject, is to determine which information is not important and which information is crucial. Although students can use the teacher’s study guide and look at the highlighted term already provided by the textbook company, they will eventually need to develop this skill independently. First, students should pay attention to names and dates in history, for instance. Important figures are mentioned by name, and important events include a specific date. Students can also look at how detailed the information is. If the textbook’s authors simply want to give a general idea or background of a topic, they will probably only discuss it for one or two paragraphs. Alternatively, something described in great detail in eight sections will probably be important information.

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