Studying, Memory, and Test Taking


An overhead view of four students sitting at a long table. Two have computers, while another has a computer and what appears to be a textbook. The fourth person has a number of papers and is cutting them into smaller pieces.
Image 9.19 How we study is as important as what we study. The environment is a critical element of success. Depending on the nature of the work, students may use different types of resources, devices, and methods. (Credit: Image by CUBoulder from used according to CC0.)

Student Survey

How confident are you in preparing for and taking tests? Take this quick survey to figure it out, ranking questions on a scale of 1–4, 1 meaning “least like me” and 4 meaning “most like me.” These questions will help you determine how the chapter concepts relate to you right now. As you are introduced to new concepts and practices, it can be informative to reflect on how your understanding changes over time.

  1. I set aside enough time to prepare for tests.
  2. If I don’t set aside enough time, or if life gets in the way, I can usually cram and get positive results.
  3. I prefer to pull all-nighters. The adrenaline and urgency help me remember what I need come test time.
  4. I study my notes, highlight book passages, and use flash cards, but I still don’t feel like I’m as successful as I should be on tests.


Student Profile

“I didn’t have to study much for tests in high school, but I learned really quick that you have to for college. One of the best strategies is to test yourself over the material. This will help you improve your retrieval strength and help you remember more when it comes to the test. I also learned about reviewing your graded tests. This will help you see where you went wrong and why. Being able to see your mistakes and correct them helps the storage and retrieval strength as well as building those dendrites. Getting a question wrong will only improve those things helping you remember the next time it comes up.”

—Lilli Branstetter, University of Central Arkansas


Deep learning is the long-term goal of college students, especially when they start taking classes in their major or that directly connect to their career field. However, deep learning doesn’t happen overnight. After you have read the texts and listened to the lectures, you will want to participate in activities that help you move your understanding from your short-term memory to your long-term memory. And there is only one way to learn deeply: through effective study practices and test taking in which you receive feedback on how well you have learned.

About This Chapter

By the time you finish this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

  • Describe the key components of deep learning.
  • Outline the importance of memory when studying and note some opportunities to strengthen memory.
  • Discuss specific ways to increase the effectiveness of studying.
  • Articulate test-taking strategies that minimize anxiety and maximize results.
  • Discuss the role that metacognition plays in the learning process.

It makes sense that the better you are at studying and test taking, the better results you’ll see in the form of high grades and long-term learning and knowledge acquisition. And the more experience you have using your study and memorization skills and employing success strategies during exams, the better you’ll get at it. But you have to keep it up—maintaining these skills and learning better strategies as the content you study becomes increasingly complex is crucial to your success. Once you transition into a work environment, you will be able to use these same skills that helped you to be successful in college as you face the problem-solving demands and expectations of your job. Earning high grades is one goal, and certainly a good one when you’re in college, but true learning means committing content to long-term memory.




Adapted from Amy Baldwin’s “4.1 Studying, Memory, and Test Taking Introduction” of College Success Concise, 2023, used according to creative commons CC by 4.0. Access for free at



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UNM Core Writing OER Collection Copyright © 2023 by University of New Mexico is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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