Ace every test from now on. Seriously.

With the memory techniques on this site, you can ace every test from now on.

Okay, fine, that’s a slight exaggeration. You can’t memorize your way into a perfect essay. (Though memorizing the key facts can make a huge improvement).

But aside from essays, what are your tests? Spitting back facts. Vocabulary, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, multiple choice. Facts are perfect for memorizing!

You can start pulling 99s and 100s. Seriously. This isn’t rocket science.

What do you need to get A’s on every test? Not much, really.

  1. Find out everything that could possibly be on the test
  2. Make it all into flashcards (a few every day)
  3. Start studying these flashcards way ahead of time

Use these methods, you will be able to memorize it all. It’s a simple question of planning.

When your grades are based on memorizing facts, they have very little to do with some mysterious “IQ.” Grades are about discipline and time management. In other words, with the parts of your life that you can control. Sounds pretty good.

1: You need your teacher to tell you everything that could possibly be on the test.

No problem. In my experience, most teachers will bend over backwards to tell you everything that might be on the test. Among educators, it’s a significant source of lower back pain. They go over the notes, they hand out study guides, they have pre-test quizzes. Sometimes the entire course is laid out in the syllabus. They’re desperate, man. They want a class full of 100s.

If they haven’t already showered you with hints, here’s your secret weapon: ask. They’ll probably be relieved at the reminder to hand out those study guides.

What about essays? True, if the essays are graded on composition, that’s a separate skill. But almost every essay question is asking for a whole montage of facts, expertly organized. When would you rather arrange your facts: in the heat of the test, or in the quiet of your room, with all your sources at hand? If you have the questions ahead of time, you can memorize the facts you’ll use for your essays, and even arrange them and memorize the outline of your argument. (I suggest loci.)

Occassionally, you do get that curmudgeon who barks, “Study guide? Check your notes.” This is the same kind of teacher who will base your entire semester grade on two tests full of essays, and wait to grade the first one until you’ve already taken the second. Myself, I found this breed exceedingly rare.

2: You need to make all this possible test material into flashcards

You can find out how all over this site. I have articles on making flashcards, on different memory tools for different kinds of material, and on using my favorite, free flashcard program: Anki. It’s all here.

If you want a perfect score (not to mention actually keeping what you’ve learned), put everything into flashcards that might be on the tests. Yes, it’s more work. But not as much as agonizing over what to study.

You want different results, right? You need to do something different. Make it all into flashcards.

3: You need to make and study the flashcards ahead of time instead of cramming the night before.

Here’s your other different task: study ahead of time, a little every day. Most of your tests will cluster at key times in the semester. Stop waiting until then!

As soon as you know what will be on the tests, start making the flashcards. If you explain that you’d like to start studying early, you may even get the study guide ahead of time.

If the teacher says no, you can still make a few flashcards each day, with the key points from that day’s class. When you do get the study guide, you’ll probably find that you’ve already made most of the cards you’ll need.

It’s hard to start a new habit like this. But once you do, it is so much easier to do a little every day than have a huge mountain at the end.

And don’t go overboard and put everything into cards. Just the key points.

The sooner you make the flashcards, the sooner you can start studying. This is key. Every review makes the fact stronger. If you wait until the night before, you’ll have a ton of fragile memories. Plus, your mind can only make so many new memories at a time.

That being said, here’s a secret. Anki does have a “cram mode.” It’s like spaced repetition on a micro-scale. The intervals are in minutes and hours, instead of days and weeks. That means a lot more repetition, but if you really need to know it by tomorrow, you need cram mode.

Now forget I told you about that, and start making cards.

Okay, so, one more time, what do you need to ace every test (except essays)?

  1. Find out everything that could possibly be on the test
  2. Make it all into flashcards (a few every day)
  3. Start studying these flashcards way ahead of time

New habits are tough. But if you already have some kind of study time every day, you’ve tackled the toughest part. (If you don’t, get tackling.) Leverage this daily study time into making and reviewing flashcards, and you’ll start racking up those high As. When you do, let me know!