Scientifically, The 8 Best Ways To Prepare For Final Exams
Finals week can be a stressful time for all students. Knowing how to properly prepare for finals is the key to avoiding stress and acing, well passing, your final exams. When you can’t get a massage or visit therapy dogs in the library, these 8, scientifically proven, ways to prepare for final exams will help you out.
But, we all know this isn’t really possible. There needs to be a uniform way to assess our performance as students and it has to happen at some point (hence, “finals”). So how else can we lower stress and know that we’re on the right track to excel in each course? 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. When you are studying, remember that reading is NOT studying. Interact with the materials, but then take a break and come back to it later.
2. Say YES to cardio
Whether you’re dancing, jogging, or busting a sweat by walking, exercise will increase your energy level and reduce the effects of stress. Make exercising a habit, and don’t be afraid to start small. Starting out with just 10 minutes a day has cognitive benefits. Set a goal of 150 minutes per week.
3. Eat, and eat well
Eat breakfast before your test! A healthy breakfast directly benefits academic performance and reported GPA among university students. Avoid the sugar and reach for a protein-rich breakfast instead.
Remember, what you eat overall as part of a healthy diet is important too. Eating healthy snacks during the day when you are studying for and taking final exams. Reach for nuts, fruit, protein bars, and yogurt are good choices. Pack grapes and mixed fruit; throw snack bags full of nuts and dried fruit; make rollups with lunch meat and cheese; or prepare almond butter and pita bites.
4. Find alternate study spots
It is important to find a spot that brings you comfort and peace when you study, but it is just as important to shake up your finals routine! Spending all night in the library is draining and sometimes the view outside your bedroom window just isn’t cutting it. Make a change for the brain.
According to the New York Times, changing the room where a person studies improve retention. Psychologists found that college students who studied a list of 40 vocabulary words in two different rooms — one windowless and cluttered, the other modern, with a view on a courtyard — did far better on a test than students who studied the words twice, in the same room. Why? The brain makes subtle associations between what it is studying and the background sensations it has at the time. Try alternating your study spots between the library, a study room, and a quiet coffee house.
5. Manage your time
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
Almost every college student pulls an all-nighter, but it is a bad idea. Based on a 2008 study by Pamela Thacher, Associate Professor of Psychology at St. Lawrence University, all-nighters impair reasoning and memory for as long as four days. As a result, you will receive lower grades. But that’s not all; you would then be forced to wake up earlier than expected–and that’s bad too. According to Dan Taylor, director of a sleep-and-health-research lab at the University of North Texas, this will interfere with rapid-eye-movement (REM), which aids memory. So, get a good night’s sleep and expect to perform better on tests. (Quick tip: Review the toughest material right before going to bed the night before the test. It makes it easier to recall the material later, adds Taylor!)
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 and consider downloading these study tools to keep you focused!
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.
If you need help studying for finals, look for help on campus. Campus librarians, writing center tutors, and your professors are the best resources to help you understand the content and develop ways to relate to the materials. Hit up office hours, make a tutoring appointment, or swing by the library to add more resources to your final exams toolkit.