Yearly, high school, college, and graduate students are overwhelmed with finals week in the United States. They find themselves too preoccupied with accessing too much information, which leads to burnout, poor sleep habits, and negative academic performance.
The Journalism Lab for Higher Education has compiled ten tips to help you succeed in your exams while remaining stress-free.
1. Start early
Ideally, once you are aware of the exam, you should begin prepping. Create a schedule with times that you can actively dedicate to learning. During this stage, you want to create a list of things you will or foresee yourself needing when you start studying. For example, if you function better with music, have a playlist ready for the dates you will be prepping.
2. Avoid the urge to procrastinate
Procrastination is a universal experience that former and current students have experienced at some time in their lives. Whether it be that k-drama, watching reels, or simply mentally needing a form of escapism, you are not alone.
But first, remember your goals and stay focused. If you are a college student, the syllabus will include dates or weeks of upcoming exams. Therefore, review notes, PowerPoint presentations, lectures, past exams, etc.
Remember to divide the material by sections or chapters, as this will help you later with tip #8 when you test your knowledge. Additionally, find the source of your procrastination. If you need to go for a walk, do so. If you need time to distract, do so. If you need sleep, continue to read tip #10. But most importantly, find the reason for your procrastination to avoid it in the future.
3. Find a space conducive to studying
Your environment will dictate how much studying you get done. Avoid being in a room that’s overly stimulating you with distractions. This will only hinder your learning ability to prepare for your test.
If you need background noise, avoid using your TV and instead up for creating a playlist as previously mentioned in tip #1. The TV will only serve to distract you as time goes by.
If feasible, have a designated area to study. If you don’t have room for that, please consider the library, the living room (if no one else is there), or your room. If none of these options work for you, try to think of a place that will allow you to safely and peacefully study without intrusions.
Always keep in mind to bring any supplies you may need to facilitate your study session.
4. Reorganize your notes
An important step in assuring academic success is reorganizing your notes to what’s important and relevant for your upcoming exam. If you have a highlighter, start outlining concepts and information that are most relevant, formulas, dates, and definitions—this will facilitate your ability to retain information.
However, if you don’t have a highlighter, don’t worry. If you have a pencil or pen, this will suffice as well. Make sure you are underlining or circling key concepts as you sort your notes.
In developing a system: of dates, formulas, definitions, and key concepts, you will minimize the duration of your studies in the process of sorting some of the information that will become familiar.
5. Create your own study guide
Although many teachers provide study guides, it is uncommon in college. Therefore, creating your own will be important.
Once your information is sorted, you should start creating your own study guide with the information that you don’t know. Avoid adding the information you are certain you know, because adding it to the list will only take time away from other topics you are not as well versed in.
The study guide should meet your learning style. If you function better with flashcards, writing an outline will not help you as much.
Also, make sure to study the material not included in the study guide. The study guides aren’t always comprehensive and can hinder you in the long run.
6. Change strategies for different exams
Study techniques vary depending on the type of exam you will be taking.
Understanding the type of exam will help you better prepare. For example, a multiple choice exam varies from essay exams, oral exams, and open-book exams.
In the end, you need to focus on the type of exam and concepts and find examples similar to that method, especially try tip #8.
7. Pace yourself
Stay focused but don’t get burned out. Studying for long periods without a break will affect retention. Pace yourself and the amount of material you are reading.
Have a snack in between study sessions. Keep yourself hydrated.
8. Test your knowledge
After spending several days studying and you feel confident in your retention abilities, it is time to test what you know.
Group study or peer study will help test your knowledge. Also, help in explaining concepts and reinforcing what you have learned.
9. Take breaks
If pacing yourself isn’t working. Take some time away from the study session to reset. Everyone is different in the amount of time needed to resume learning. Therefore, five minutes may not be enough for you, who may need 20 minutes or more.
Understand your needs and the amount of time you need to reset. For example, use these short breaks to exercise, meditate, eat, rest, or do another activity that will allow you to destress.
10. Get enough sleep
Being anxious can affect your sleep habits. Also, having unhealthy study sessions, like not pacing yourself or studying for prolonged periods without a break, leads to burnout.
The amount of sleep you need varies. Some people can function on three or four hours of sleep, and others need more.
During finals, please avoid all-nighters. Plan according to your needs and create a sleep schedule.
Your sleep matters, and it will help you study better.
Lastly, remember to keep yourself hydrated. Your body and mind will thank you.
Good luck this week!