1. PrepareThe cheat sheet “remembers” facts, formulas, and procedures for you. This helps buy your brain space for understanding concepts and solving problems. Keep in mind you really need to understand the test material, and there’s no cheat sheet in the world that can do that for you. Start your study aid by preparing: review all of the material your teacher said would be on your test, also looking at your class syllabus and any recent assignments you’ve completed. Then, make two lists separating the things you need to remember from the things you need to understand. Good things to include on your study aid include steps of processes, specific formulas, tables, and reminders that help you understand key concepts.
2. CreateLook at your list of things to remember and divide it into things you have trouble remembering and things that you easily remember. Leave the things you easily remember off of your test-day study aid. Space is limited on your notecard or loose-leaf sheet, and the more you try to cram onto it, the more challenging it can be to find the information you need during your test. Organize the information on your test-day study aid by the situation in which you need to use it. For instance, if preparing a study aid for a physics exam, you could write headings such as “mechanics,” “waves” and “electricity,” and under each you would write any formulas or variables you have trouble remembering. Besides using headings, you can further organize your study aid by using arrows, borders, highlighting, and/or color-coding. When writing your study guide, be sure it’s readable. Be neat and write large enough so what you’ve written is easy to read during a test. Use the space wisely, only writing down what you need and making use of drawings, shorthand, abbreviations or symbols when appropriate as a way to save space.
3. EditThe key to determining whether or not you have created a suitable test-day study aid is to take it for a test drive: ask your teacher for a practice exam, or use a textbook to try practice questions similar to those that will appear on your exam. The process of using your study aid before your official test can help you learn where on it you can find specific information and helps you better understand the test material. Perhaps even more importantly, using your “cheat sheet” on practice exams can help you to identify any flaws that you can correct before your test.
Erica Cirino is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, the leading curated marketplace for private tutors. The company also builds mobile learning apps, online tutoring environments, and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies.