Do Your Best: Last-Minute Study Tips - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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December 15, 2015

Do Your Best: Last-Minute Study Tips

Facing your final exams may be the most stress you’ll face all season. It’s doubly stressful if you haven’t had the best study habits during the semester, and you have a lot riding on the outcome of your tests. Yet, stressing over your exams is one of the worst things you can do. With a calm, rational approach, last-minute studying can prove fruitful if you follow some of these tips.

Get sleep for best exam results

Dr. Philip Alapat, Assistant Professor at the Baylor College of Medicine, recommends eight hours of sleep prior to your exam. "Memory recall and ability to maintain concentration are much improved when an individual is rested," he said.  Alapat, Director of the Harris Health Sleep Disorders Center, notes that memory, mood and behavior are all impaired by sleep deprivation. These things can negatively affect test time performance.

The doctor recommends scheduling studying in the evenings when you’re most alert and can focus best.

Avoid marathon study sessions before finals

When the pressure is on and the clock is winding down, you may feel tempted to study in long, arduous blocks of time. It’s better to study in bursts, taking a short break in between. Try studying for 30 minutes, followed by a 10-minute break, and repeat the pattern for however long you plan to study. Studying in long sessions can lead to mental exhaustion and you’ll lose concentration. The breaks give you a chance to maintain your energy, but more importantly, it gives you a chance to retain the material you just covered.

A clean, well-lighted place

Your environment is more important than you realize. Neuroscience researchers at Princeton found that when you’re trying to focus, having too many items in your field of view can restrict your ability to focus. Even if you’re ignoring the stacks of books, iPhones and other items in your room, you’ll be subconsciously attracted to them. In Ernest Hemingway’s short story “A Clean, Well-lighted Place,” he was talking about the isolation of despair. You, too, are interested in isolating yourself from distractions.

Speaking of distractions, you may also want to consider disconnecting your Internet connection and/or phone during your study sessions if you don’t need them. There’s nothing like browsing Email to start you on the road to procrastination.

Interactive studying

Always interact with the material you’re reviewing. If you don’t have practice exams or textbook questions, make some up. This is probably not the best time to have a classmate “quiz” you on the material. You have enough pressure already. Besides, they may not know the material well enough to ask the right questions.

Interacting with the material can also mean organizing the subject matter. Create your own outlines and study guides from your notes, class handouts, downloads and textbooks. Make an organizational-style chart to create hierarchies of the information you need to retain.

Master your own magic

Mnemonics is the trick of making memorizing something easier by associating that thing with something familiar. The “ABC song” is the mnemonic we’re all familiar with. You can create your own tricks that work best for you.

Act naturally

Try not to change your routine too wildly. Eat well, don’t binge on energy drinks or get exercise if that’s what you do. Stay calm and ace your exams.