Studying for exams is really tough. Having the chance to bring a cheat sheet into the exam can make things easier. A cheat sheet or a study sheet is a teacher-approved sheet of information about the material on which you're being tested that can help you to remember the answers to certain questions and leave you the mental space you need to remember concepts and ideas.
What Is a Study Sheet?
A study sheet, also known as a cheat sheet, is a piece of paper or cardstock that students are permitted to have with them for the test that can help them to remember the material on which they are being tested. Often, a cheat sheet is written on the front and back of an index card or looseleaf paper. Students who make a cheat sheet can use it to write down certain formulas, equations, complex data points and other information that may be of use during the test.
A study sheet by design isn't used in lieu of studying. Rather, it's a little set of notes that can help to jog your memory and remind you of the complex information and ideas that you've already studied. In fact, a cheat sheet is only effective if you've actually prepared for the exam. If you don't know the material, there isn't a study sheet in the world big enough to help you.
While preparing for the test by going over all the information that you know is going to be on it, see if there are little things that you'd like to remember. Are there important dates? Mathematical formulas? Vocabulary words or sentence diagrams? Any and all things that can help to jog your memory and connect to the larger key ideas belong on the card.
How to Make a Cheat Sheet
Working with a template for a crib sheet or cheat sheet is a good idea. But what is a crib sheet template?
One popular template idea is to divide your cheat sheet into columns. One column is marked "Need to Remember" and the other is "Need to Understand." In the first column, you can list any formulas, equations, or other hard-to-remember things that you may need to recall exactly in order to apply them.
In the "Need to Understand" column, you can put topics like "communism," "relativism," "potato famine" or anything that can help you remember a long swath of information that you couldn't really fit on the crib sheet. If your test is on science, divide your sheet into sections and write down the things that are most pertinent for each one. Subheadings for topics are a good idea, and using color coding, borders, arrows and other visual devices can help you make the most of your space.
How Do I Create a Study Plan?
No matter how small you write or how many details you can fit on your cheat sheet, it will be useless if you don't prepare a solid study plan and stick to it. Your study plan should cover all the material on which you are going to be tested and should help you break down your preparation into easy, manageable steps.
Start by making a list of all the material that's going to be covered on the exam. Highlight anything with which you have trouble and don't really understand. Begin by reviewing the concepts or facts that you are struggling to understand. If necessary, get help from a friend, the internet or a teacher. Once you've gotten clear on the tough stuff, do a thorough review of everything.
This is when you build your cheat sheet. As you move through the material, make little notes that will help you to remember events, concepts and key ideas. The cheat sheet should be able to help you recall ideas you already know and give you a sense of where to apply them. Make sure you're only writing down things that you understand, as having language or symbols with which you aren't familiar on your cheat sheet will only serve to confuse you.
- Community Colleges of Spokane, Professor Jennifer Barson: Study Tips for Geology 101
- State University of New York at Buffalo, William J. Rapaport: How to Study - A Brief Guide
- Seventeen: 12 Students Who Made the Utter Most Out of Their One-Page Cheat Sheets
- Her Campus at York U: How to Create the Ultimate Cheat Sheet
- Avoid the temptation to use a word processing program set to the smallest font setting to place material on the cheat sheet. SUNY Buffalo's William J. Rapaport recommends to his students that they rewrite their notes as an active study method. Writing by hand helps you learn the material better and will later help you locate specific pieces of information more quickly during the test.
- Professor Jennifer Barson of Spokane Falls Community College suggests creating the cheat sheet at least two days before the test. The cheat sheet is as much a study aid as it is a test-taking tool.
Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience writing about education for a variety of organizations and educational institutions as well as online media sites. She has written for Pearson Education, The University of Miami, The New York City Teaching Fellows, New Visions for Public Schools, and a number of independent secondary schools. She lives in Los Angeles.