Choose a time and place
In today’s world, distractions are easy to come by. If you want to make the most of your study time, first you need to schedule some time for studying. You’ll want to choose a time when you’re most alert and least distracted. If this is in the morning, try waking up an hour earlier to study before school or work. If it’s in the evening, make sure to pick a time when you’re not too tired or have other responsibilities to worry about.
Once you’ve determined the best time to study, find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted, such as a home office, library or coffee shop. If silence is too distracting to you, try listening to white noise (like a fan) or soothing instrumental music. Avoid TV and social media websites, and silence and put away your cell phone.
Most of the anxiety you might feel in the days before finals is often a result of procrastination. If you dedicate an hour every day to review your course materials throughout the semester and start studying for finals several days in advance, you’ll feel much more confident come test time.
Keep track of your old tests and quizzes and use them as your study guides, as those topics will likely reappear on your final exams.
Break it up
Cramming a lot of subjects into several hours at a time will overload your brain and cause fatigue, which will make it difficult for you to retain and recall important information during your tests. If you start studying early, you’ll have time to break up your study sessions into manageable chunks.
Work on one subject for 45 minutes to an hour, then take a short break. Allow your mind to recover during your breaks — grab a healthy snack, do light exercises, or rest your eyes and listen to music. However, try not to watch TV or surf the Internet during this time. Not only will this overstimulate your mind, but it may make it more difficult for you to start studying again.
Use study methods that work for you
People learn in different ways, and therefore should study in a way that works best with their learning style. Visual learners may benefit more from using color-coded flash cards, rewriting notes, or drawing pictures to illustrate ideas, while auditory learners may prefer listening to recordings of their lectures and reciting word associations. Take this short quiz to find out your learning style and related study tactics. Once you find the study method that works for you, test preparation will be a lot easier.
Healthy body=healthy mind
After all the time you’ve spent preparing for your exams, you don’t want to let physical factors like fatigue or illness keep you from doing your best.
- Go to bed early and try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, especially on the nights before your exams.
- Try to exercise for 30 minutes a day, and maintain physical activity while you study. Even light cardio and calisthenics will keep your blood circulating, delivering important nutrients to your brain.
- Eat balanced meals and take vitamins, if you can. Don’t skip breakfast! Avoid alcohol and “junk foods.”
What study tactics work best for you? Share your ideas in the comments!
Study tips for this article were previously contributed by Alyssa C. and Jeffrey Townley in the UA Little Rock Writing Center; Leah Jackson with the UA Little Rock TRIO Program; Aaron Jones with the Charles W. Donaldson Scholars Academy; Rachel Hook and Charles Bryant of UA Little Rock eLearning.