As I suggested in the some of the videos on the diversity of organisms or the animal kingdom, I highly recommend picking 1 or 2 unique characteristic to each phylum (or w/in the animals, some classes like the different kinds of chordates) and focusing on those. Also, if you can use a graphic organizer like the phylogenetic tree I use in the Animal Kingdom lectures, that helps to remember all the different kinds of animals and their characteristics. Try creating something similar for the other kingdoms, very often textbooks will have cladograms or phylogenetic trees that you can use as a guide. Don't obsess over every creature and every characteristic, but try to identify the "landmark" characteristics and creatures who possess them, they're far more likely to be on tests. For example, in the plants, it's far more likely they'll ask about the vascular tissue or the cones of gymnosperms rather than how the leaves of Ginkgo trees are different in structure from conifers' needles.