When it comes to studying and preparing for exams you know that I am a huge advocate for self-quizzing. But at what point during your study sessions should you use self-quizzing? When is the right time to test yourself on the material you’re learning in lecture?

I have a self-quizzing process that I used all throughout nursing school and it’s the same process I teach my students in Rock@College to use. In this week’s episode of Soulful Studies Sunday I will walk you through my self-quizzing process so you’ll know exactly when to pull out those practice exams.

Step 1: Take your notes.

There is no note taking style preference here. Just make sure that the notes contain all the material you’ll be expected to know on exam day and that its organized in a way that makes sense to you. It also doesn’t matter if you take your notes from lecture, powerpoints, online videos or your textbook. Take your notes from the resource that helps you understand the material best.

Step 2: Review Your Notes 2-3 times.

Once you’ve written notes on all the material that will be included in this exam, gather them together.  Review these notes 2-3 times. At this point during your study process this is probably the second or third time your exposing yourself to this material, so make sure that you’re really trying to make sense of it. Pay attention to key terms, main ideas and start drawing connections that are going to make it easier for you to recall the information during self-quizzing and exams.

I don’t recommend that you review all your notes on the same day. Instead spread your review sessions as well as  your self-quizzing sessions out over a 3-7 day period. An example would be you could review and self quiz on topic 1 on Monday, topic 2 on Tuesday, topic 3 on Friday, etc.

Step 3: Time for Self-Quizzing.

Only after you’ve written all of your notes and reviewed them 2-3 times do you move on to the most important part of studying in my opinion, self-quizzing. The mistake that a lot of students make is that when they’re studying they stop at Step 2 where they just review their notes 2-3 times thinking that will be enough to be successful on the exam.

What happens is you trick your brain into thinking it knows the information because your brain becomes familiar with seeing and reading the same words and ideas, but there really is no way for you to actually tell you know that information unless you test yourself. Until you can openly explain, speak about and apply the information without looking at your notes, you haven’t mastered the material.

I won’t lie, when you first start self-quizzing it’s really difficult to asses your knowledge on your own. So what I suggest as a beginner self-quizzer is to make use of the resources that are already around that are designed to do this. Complete the chapter quizzes at the end of your reading. Ask for practice exams from your professor and do them without your notes. Take advantage of the online resources that now come with almost every textbook. These online resources usually have way more creative ways to test your understanding of the material.

As you take part in self-quizzing more often, you’ll learn how to incorporate this process into your reading routine, study group and during your 2-3 reviews of your notes. By the time you sit down to actually do the self-quizzing you’ll be close to a super genius on all the material that will be covered on your exam and you’ll know exactly what areas you need a little more review time on.

If you want to learn how to study more effectively check out The Rock@College System a step-by-step blueprint for getting better grades without the stress, overwhelm and lack of social life.