7 Popular Test Taking Myths That You Need To Stop Believing

As someone who was in school from the age of four to 21, it’s safe to say that I know a thing or two about studying. Okay, mostly, I know a thing or two about how not to study and what you should never do during a test. As they say, hindsight is 20/20, and yo… I have a lot of it. Like most life lessons, I had to find out the hard way. For example, all-nighters aren’t the key to history test success, and actually taking the time to meet with my teacher would have saved me a lot of grief in economics.

Hey, you probably already know what has worked for you when it comes to test taking and what doesn’t. That’s fine. But there are probably a lot more things that you think are working well for you, but are actually super ineffective. Check out these seven test taking myths you probably believe, but shouldn’t. It’s time to kick your crappy study habits to the curb for once and for all.


Myth: All Nighters Work As Long As You're On Your Grind

A lot of us experience at least one all nighter in our lives...some of us experience several (er...hi!). But you should never--ever--get into the habit of pulling them, even if you managed to ace a test that one time you stayed up all night. It doesn't matter, it's a really ineffective way to study. Why? Because when you sleep, your brain strengthens your memories. That means that you'll be more likely to remember that one calculus formula a lot better if you sleep on it than if you try to stare at it all night long before your midterms.

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Myth: Find One Study Spot And Stick To It

My piano teacher always told me that the brain loves consistency, and it's true: If you keep doing something the right way, you won't do it the wrong way again. But the brain also loves a little variety too, and studies indicate that switching up your study spots can actually help you retain information better.

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Myth: Don't Listen To Music While You Study/Only Listen To Certain Genres

There's so much debate about listening to music while studying. Several studies suggest that classical music is great for focusing, others suggest listening to ambient music, and I've even come across a suggestion not to listen to music at all because it's a distraction. Here's the truth: There isn't one ultimate answer. If you can't stand utter silence, don't try to study for a test without a peep. But one thing that is certain (which you'll probably grudgingly agree with): You're better off listening to unfamiliar music than your favorite album. Why? You're more likely to get distracted! Try some classical here, ambient here, and a genre you just normally don't listen to another time and see what works best. Who knows? Maybe you actually are someone who should study in silence after all.

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Myth: Type Your Notes Because It's Faster Than Writing Them Down

Yes, you can probably jot down your notes faster when you type up your professor's lecture as opposed to trying to write so quickly that you suffer from a hand cramp. But speed isn't everything. The physical act of writing down information will actually help you absorb it better. And trust me, you've probably seen a ton of note taking porn around the internet--pretty pen colors, perfect handwriting, aesthetically pleasing bullet formatting--but that's just extra flair that works for some; as long as you can read your chicken scratch handwriting, you're good.

Legally Blonde

Myth: Cramming Is Effective As Long As You Have All Your Notes Ready

Listen, you can have all the right notes and your highlighting game can be on point too. But that's not going to amount for much if you're just waiting until a few hours before your big exam to actually, you know, study. I mean, it's obvious that the longer you study, the more informed you'll be about a subject, but stress also doesn't really make it easier for you to process information. Sure, it's better than nothing, but take it from somebody who "thrives" under pressure: I might need that adrenaline rush to finish my work, but I'm a lot more likely to make careless mistakes in the process. The same thing will happen if you make cramming a habit.

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Myth: You Don't Have To Study For Open Book Tests

I had to learn this the hard way in college when I took a geography course online. When I found out that all the tests were open book I was like, "OMG, SCORE, WHAT AN EASY CLASS." Ha, no. See, it's one thing to have an open book test that has zero time constraints, like a take home final; those can be pretty manageable. But when you have to take an open book test under a strict time limit, don't just assume you can wing it. Trust me: read the material first, take notes, highlight thoroughly. Otherwise, you'll waste most of the test trying to find keywords in a specific chapter and reading than answering test questions.

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Myth: Some People Are Naturally Good At Test Taking, Others Just Aren't

This just isn't true. Test taking is a skill that can be learned just like anything else. It's all about getting into good habits, which is a lot easier said than done. It's also important to acknowledge that some people have disabilities and disorders that make test taking a little more challenging. For example, in my senior year of college I discovered that I had ADHD; knowing this in high school would have allowed me extra time to take tests, time that could have made a difference in my grades. Know your strengths and know your weaknesses, and don't be afraid to ask for help.

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What helps you study in a pinch? What have you tried that just doesn’t work? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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