Your class just wrapped up the final chapter, which means a test is coming up! You need to start studying, but you suddenly wonder:

A woman stands still amid dancing people in a club. She wonders,

Using a study guide is an effective way to help you review the content. While one may be provided by your teacher, creating and using your own study guide can help you study more efficiently by tailoring it to your needs.

What should you include in your study guide? Use these 5 pointers to design the best study guide possible.

#1: Use an existing study guide as a base

Start framing your study guide based on an existing study guide. This pre-existing study guide can be one provided by your teacher or your textbook. You can also look up study guides online to get an idea of what yours can look like. This ensures that you don't miss anything important.

A craftsperson says,

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a pre-existing study guide to:

  • see how information is organized and formatted (ex. Cornell notes)

  • add more information based on what you know

  • cross-check information for accuracy

  • know what key content, ideas, and vocabulary you should include (based on your teacher's lessons/the textbook you're using)

  • use a question-and-answer format (ex. answering "What is photosynthesis?")

#2: Summary of the content

Include a summary that contains the most important ideas of the material.

Summaries can jog your memory of the content at a glance, and the process of writing a summary yourself helps you focus on the big concepts rather than unnecessary details. This is especially useful for subjects like history, literature, and science, where memorization plays a huge role in understanding the content.

Michael Scott says,

Flaticon Icon In writing a summary, consider:

  • the accuracy of the information

  • condensing the information (4-6 sentences)

  • being specific and including key information/details

  • whether it's in the first section of your study guide (with bullet points/notes after it to break the summary into further detail), in the middle/throughout (as checkpoints per section), or the last portion (with the bullet points/notes wrapping up to one conclusion)

#3: Key concepts and ideas

Study guides focus on the most important information, but what kind of information should you include, and how should you include it? Answering the right questions and presenting information in a variety of ways will make the content engaging and memorable for you while studying.

Chris Tucker says,

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Key concepts and ideas you include should answer questions like:

  • who, what, when, why, how ("How do germs spread?")

  • steps in a process ("What are the stages of the water cycle?")

  • causes and effects ("What events led up to World War II?")

Make your notes more comprehensive:

  • include pictures and diagrams with clear labels

  • highlight important words and ideas

  • draw arrows connecting ideas to each other, circles to group key ideas, and lines to divide content

#4: Key equations, people, and terms

Dedicate one section of your study guide to list important information, such as equations, people, and terms. This section will be convenient because if you need to refresh your memory on something or find an equation, they are all in one spot.

A woman enthusiastically says,

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Here are a few examples of equations, people, and terms you may want to take note of in each core subject:

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English/Language Arts

  • vocabulary (definition and example)

  • rhetorical/literary devices (when to use, impact on writing)

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  • equations (sample problem and example)

  • steps to solving equations (clearly labeled)

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  • steps in a cycle/process (ex. water cycle/cell division)

  • diagrams and vocabulary (show processes/definitions)

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Social Sciences/History

  • important events (chronological order, significance, cause-and-effect)

  • historical figures (contributions, connections to present)


Edwin is designing a study guide for his chemistry class. He is confident in the key concepts but struggles in solving equations. What should he include in his study guide? Select all that apply:

#5: Sample questions

Jot downsample questionseither throughout or at the end of the study guide. Generating and answering questions serve as great checkpoints to check your understanding of the material.

A student studying by taking notes and reading in their own study guide.

Flaticon Icon Sample questions include:

  • chapter questions from your textbook

  • key points from your teacher's notes/study guide

  • math/science problems (numerical and word problems)

  • your own wonderings (questions you had while studying)

Take Action

Developing your own study guide is a valuable tool for your studies. In creating a guide that meets your needs and includes only the most important information, you also spend time re-learning and practicing the material. With a comprehensive study guide, you'll be ready to ace your next test!

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Remember the key steps in creating an effective study guide:


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