Test review should begin the first day of class. It involves reading your syllabus to determine the requirements for the course, entering dates of tests and assignments on your quarterly schedule, reviewing your lecture notes after each class, and completing assigned reading before lectures.
Continuous reviews allow you sufficient time to understand the material, create relationships among facts and concepts, and generate questions and important insights that can help you peform well on tests. There will be tests for which only rote memorization is necessary to obtain good scores. However, most of your professors, especially in your upper level coursework, will require you to demonstrate knowledge beyond that which can be gained from a day or two of cramming.
There are three types of reviews that are important for effective test preparation: daily, weekly, and major.
Forgetting takes place immediately after a lecture or reading. Without continuous review, research has shown that you will forget approximately 80% of what you have just learned within 24-48 hours. Daily reviews allow you to move information from your short term memory into your long-term memory, where you begin to create the deeper level of understanding you need to perform well on most tests. Daily review also ensures that when you sit down several days before your test, you do not have to re-learn the material because of how much you have forgotten since it was first presented.
Daily reviews can take less than 15 minutes and can be conducted any time you find yourself with brief periods of available time. For example, when you are riding the shuttle bus; while you are waiting for your next class or a friend to arrive; after lunch; before you begin your study session in the evening.
Weekly reviews consist of one to two hours per subject. They are more structured and include a thorough review of all assigned reading, lecture notes, flash cards, handouts, etc. They can be scheduled for the same day each week. For example, you may decide to hold your weekly review for Sociology 1010 on Thursday evening; History 1700 on Saturday morning; and Biology 1010 with your study group on Wednesday mornings.
Conducting a weekly review with a study partner or group is an effective way to use your time. You can benefit from reviewing each other's notes, hearing material discussed from different perspectives and learning styles, and helping each other memorize difficult material.
Check out Supplemental Instruction. If you are in a class where SI is available, group study sessions are held two to three hours per week.
Major reviews are typically scheduled the week before a major exam. Schedule two or more hours to review all of the material that will be on the test. Plan your study time so that you can study in 50 to 60 minute increments, with short, non-television breaks in between. Conduct daily reviews of your study guides and other study aids you have created.