By Joel Delgado ’12 MS ’17
At this point in the semester, you’re probably spending more time in the Green Library than at home or in your dorm, sifting through long-forgotten notes from the first weeks of class and stocking up on energy drinks as if there was a national shortage of them.
That can mean only one thing: Finals Week is near.
Don’t panic! It’s easy to feel the late-semester squeeze as due dates draw closer; but what you do now can help ease some of the anxiety that is common during one of the most stressful weeks in every college student’s calendar.
Here are some studying tips and techniques that can help you retain information, stay energized and excel when exam day arrives.
1. LOCATION MATTERS
Where you study is important in maximizing how much information you retain. Studying in places that have less noise and people traffic – the upper floors of the Green Library, the law building, the Sky Lounge, a quiet coffee shop/tea lounge – will result in more effective study time and improve your ability to recall information that you went over during that time.
Swapping study locations every once in a while has proved to help students retain information better. So instead of sitting for hours on the fifth floor of the library, get up once in a while and find another spot to finish your study session.
2. SWITCH SUBJECTS
Instead of spending hours upon hours with your head buried in the same material, it’s important to try and switch things up. Dividing time between a few related topics rather than spending time on just one subject can keep you focused and help you remember information better.
For instance, after spending half an hour on a single subject – like trigonometry – move on to something from another course like pre-calculus or finite math. Then when you return to trigonometry, you’ll be refreshed and ready to pick up where you left off.
3. FORM STUDY GROUPS
Getting together with several people – three to five motivated and committed group members – from your classes and studying together can be a powerful asset. Not only will you get valuable perspectives on the subject matter that you may overlook while studying alone, but you’ll also be encouraged to explain your thoughts and ideas out loud within the group, which will improve your understanding and ability to remember information in the process.
Plus, studying in a group makes you and others in your group accountable to each other and less likely to procrastinate on your work.
4. SNACK SMART
Choosing the right foods and snacks at Recharge-U and the POD @ Breezeway Café can help fuel your studying time, so make sure to make wise choices in the grocery aisles.
Instead of energy drinks, drink plenty of water – and the occasional cup of coffee – while studying to help you stay hydrated and maintain a high level of cognitive function and energy. Eat plenty of fruits like blueberries and apples, which reduce the level of toxins in your bloodstream and improve memory function.
Also consider adding oily fish – like salmon, which has high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids that increase brain function – as a staple of your dinner and lunch meals while studying and treating yourself with antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, which improves your ability to concentrate.
5. SLEEP WELL
It’s tempting to stay in the library to pull an all-nighter in an attempt to cram as much information as possible into your head before a test, but rest is probably one of the most critical resources to study well and test well. Sacrificing a good night’s sleep could actually do more harm than good when it comes to preparing for an exam (Sorry, night owls!).
Aim to get at least six to eight hours of sleep on a regular basis, which will relieve stress, increase alertness during classes, improve focus when studying and can even raise your GPA by a whole letter grade.
6. TAKE BREAKS
Before hitting your breaking point, take a break. After a while of non-stop studying, you begin to lose focus and the quality of your studying begins to falter. Give yourself a few minutes to stand up, stretch, go for a walk, check your phone… just take some time to pause and take a deep breath so you improve your focus and productivity.
During an hour-long study period, taking a 10-minute break to give yourself a chance to catch up will keep you from stretching yourself too thin.
7. TEST YOURSELF
One of the best ways to prepare for a test is by, well, taking tests. Even though we might hate to admit it, taking practice tests will help you relearn the information you’ve already learned while enhancing your understanding of the subject matter you’re studying.
Putting away your notes and testing yourself is the best way to determine how much you really understand what you’re studying. Doing so in your study groups and having other members of your group write up questions based on the material can pay great dividends on the day of the exam.
8. GET ORGANIZED
Managing your time and resources is critical when it comes to studying effectively. Make sure you have all your notes and materials on hand and ready to go, because having to constantly fish around your dorm or backpack for your notes only wastes valuable time you might not have.
And speaking of time, use Google Calendar or an agenda to create a study schedule that you will stick to. It’ll help designate specific study times, give yourself time to rest and provide you with structure instead of chaos. When you’re organized you’ll be less likely to procrastinate and your workload will become much more manageable.
This article is part of our Secrets to Success series.