With final right around the corner, I thought it would be helpful to write an article for our students to help put things in perspective and to give them some advice from some of our staff who have all been through the stress of finals in the past. Finals week can be a frustrating and exhausting experience if one is not properly prepared. Most students rely on caffeine rushes and all-nighters to get them through exams, but the benefits of learning how to prepare for finals far outweigh the stresses of staying up all night to cram. Well, here are some proven methods that will have you focused and better prepared for final exams.
1. Say NO to cramming: Study in intervals! Studying in 20-50 minute increments and giving yourself 5-10 minutes in between is more beneficial than cramming. Distributing learning over time typically benefits long-term retention more than a short period.
2. Say YES to cardio: Science says that just 20 minutes of cardio can improve your memory. Whether you’re dancing, jogging or busting a sweat by walking, exercise will increase your energy level and reduce the effects of stress. Very important!
3. Eat superfoods/antioxidants: Everybody knows you should eat breakfast the day of a big test. Research suggests that high-carb, high-fiber, slow-digesting foods like oatmeal are best. But what you eat a week in advance matters, too. When you study, your brain consumes glucose. So, taking a break and eating a healthy snack every few hours can be very beneficial and can make a significant difference (almonds, fruit, and yogurt are good choices).
4. Alternate study spots: Shake up your finals routine! Spending all night your bedroom can be draining. According to the New York Times, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. Try alternating your study spots between the library, different rooms in your house, or even your backyard.
5. Time management: Cramming causes anxiety, which lowers your ability to retain information. By creating a balanced study plan and schedule, you will be able to study each subject in its entirety and ultimately boost your test performance.
6. Avoid the all-nighter: At some point in their life, almost every student pulls an all-nighter, but it is a bad idea. All-nighters impair reasoning and memory for as long as four days. As a result, you will receive lower grades. So, get a good night’s sleep and expect to perform better on tests.
7. MINIMIZE distractions: Research shows that while many teens prefer to study while listening to music, texting friends, or watching television, they are less likely to retain information that way. If you must listen to music, stick to instrumental music.
8. MAXIMIZE practice-testing: You may have thought highlighting, re-reading and summation would be effective ways to study. Think again! A 2013 study, Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques, found that these techniques do not consistently boost students’ performance. Practice testing through the use of flashcards, or taking practice exams was observed to be a highly effective studying technique.
And lastly, KEEP EVERYTHING IN PERSPECTIVE. Stressing out over an exam will drive you (and everyone around you) crazy and will only damage your performance on the exam. Instead, try to relax. Take a break when you get frustrated. Talk to a friend. Go for a run. Grab a snack. Study for a different subject. Whatever you do, remember that this test isn’t the end of the world. Twenty years from now, you probably won’t even remember the reason you stressed out so much (or the grade you received.)
If you are needing additional help in preparing for an exam, whether it be to help with basic study skills, time management, or organization, or for help on a specific subject of weakness, our tutors are all prepared to help you to feel confident going into the classroom and taking your next exam.