The proper way?
It starts on day one, during the professor's intro comments. Try to pin him/her down on if the exams come from the readings, lectures, or both, and what percentage of each. There's nothing quite as disappointing as spending a lot of time studying the readings to find out the test is 100% from the lectures. Also ask what type of questions to expect: essay, multiple choice, etc.
Next, stay current on things. Do the readings, prior to class. Take good notes during class. Set that powerpoint handout aside, and take your own notes, in your own words. After class, review your notes, and clean them up. Synthesize them with the readings. Review the readings. If there are contradictions between notes/readings or things that still don't make sense, discuss with classmates, e-mail the professor, or meet during office hours. This approach will help you to learn as you go, so there's less cramming to do at the end.
As for textbooks. . . give yourself a textbook orientation. Look it over! Is there a glossary? Scan the table of contents. Look at a chapter. What are its parts? When reading a chapter, I usually start at the end - read the review questions and the chapter summary. Then go back to read the chapter. Make sure to read the headings, and pay attention to the first and last paragraph of the section. Many books put vocabulary in the margins. If the class is vocabulary intensive, I second the flashcard suggestion!
Know your body. Do not study when you are tired. Do not take classes before you are "Awake." Take breaks. Know how YOU learn. I have to make flowcharts to see the relationship between concepts. Sometimes I draw silly pictures to remind me what something is about. The sillier the better. Like a duck shooting a bow and arrow or something. You are uniquely you!
One last thing. Be prepared for the unexpected. For example, let's say you learned three different theories to explain the current sense of political divide in our country. And you studied them, and understand each of them, individually. Then you get the test question: "Compare theory A with theory C. Which one do you think is more valid? Why?" And your first thought is, "but. . . we never discussed that!" This is why a true understanding of the material, rather than memorization, is critical!
Best of luck!
Depending on the subject, there are many study strategies you could use. The most important thing is to give yourself enough time to study the amount of material you need to review for the exam. The second thing to do is start a study group or have a study body for that class. That will help all the people involved because you can help each other. If your professor gives you a study guide, fill it out and use it! If your professor will allow you to use one page of notes or formulas, fill it up with all the information you need and try to organize it in any way that works for you. You could use color highlighters for example. Flashcards really do help! Drink enough water, eat and get enough sleep.