18 Apr 10 Study Strategies for Finals Week
Create a study schedule – and follow it.
Splitting the material into chucks can be very beneficial. That way, you can keep track of what you’ve accomplished instead of looking at the big picture and getting overwhelmed. For each course, figure out how much time you will need to spend outside of class, in order to keep up and in order to do well. Studying in 20-50 minute increments and giving yourself 5-10 minutes in between is more beneficial than cramming.
Study for the style of the exam.
If it’s multiple choice, you’ll need to know definitions and concepts. For essay exams, focus on your understanding of all the concepts presented, with examples in mind. Take notes that will help with each type of exam style. A variety of note-taking styles can help you record key information and see the bigger picture in terms of subject matter.
Make sure you stay focused and don’t burn yourself out. A great way to do so is to pace yourself rather than opting for the dreaded all-nighter. You can easily pace yourself by following tips like starting early, creating a study schedule and taking breaks when necessary! Purchase an academic diary or study planner. Buy one which provides a week-at-a-glance or a month-at-a-glance view, so you can get a holistic view of the time you have available. Find out assignment due dates and quiz/test/exam dates and mark them in your study planner in advance.
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!
Surround yourself with learning.
Create a 24-hour learning environment by putting up review charts and points where you can see them daily: on mirrors, doors, fridge, bathroom, television, or bedside table. If possible, purchase a white board and dry erase markers, so you can test your memory constantly!
Read it. Write it. Say it.
Go through your notes and pull out the key points by reading them, re-writing them, then saying them out loud. This method really helps some students commit facts to memory.
Stay well rested.
Sleep is key to doing well on tests, as it improves memory recall and the ability to concentrate. It is also necessary to store memories, so if you pull an all-nighter, you likely won’t remember much of what you studied anyway. To maximize performance, you should try to get at 8 hours of sleep before a big exam, and no less than 6 hours. If your racing mind still won’t let you nod off, try meditation and relaxation techniques to help your deal with worries and get to sleep.
Alternate study spots.
Shake up your finals routine! Spending all night in the library can be draining. According to the New York Times, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. In an experiment, 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? Supposedly, 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.
Make it fun!
It’s easier to focus if you adapt to studying by quizzing yourself, creating acronyms or rewarding yourself for a job well done. Create a game plan – literally – that allows you to accomplish tasks and be rewarded for each. For example, why not reward yourself with a piece of chocolate or a brief walk after you’ve accomplished a new chapter or allow yourself five minutes of free time for every chunk of material you digest?
Figure out your learning style.
Take a learning style assessment test and find out if you are a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner. This self-knowledge can help you make more effective use of your time. Adapting your study method to suit your own natural style will enable you to produce powerful results in less time. Here is another learning style quiz and an article on learning styles!