Are you tired? Stressed-out? Overly caffeinated?
If you’re a student, and you answered yes to the above, chances are you’re in the middle of exams season. Standing between you and glorious summer months are final exams and major assignments.
Your time is precious, so if you can spare a moment to read this article, you’ll find some useful tips to help you navigate this month.
1. Set a schedule – and stick to it
In your calendar, clearly indicate the dates, times, and locations of all your exams, as well as the due dates and where to submit of all assignments.
Double-check this information – universities and colleges will be less than understanding if you tell them you missed an exam because you read the date wrong. It can be helpful to colour-code this information: assign each course a colour and only use that colour pen to mark important dates for that course.
Now you’ll know how much time you have to work. Block off your study sessions on your calendar: study different subjects during the morning, afternoon, and evening. During each session, take frequent but short breaks. Get some fresh air, stretch your legs. If your TA or professor has extra help sessions, attend them. They may offer extra tips on what to focus for the exam.
Lastly, make sure you schedule in something fun to help you unwind: an hour or two will not hurt your success.
2. Find a suitable study space
Students have different preferences for study spaces. Some prefer to only study at home; some prefer libraries; and some prefer places with a certain level of background noise, like coffee shops. Bottom line: you should study where you’re most productive.
You may find it useful to have different spaces for different subjects. For example, if you prefer the library, study for one exam in one space and when you’ve moved on to another subject, physically move to another table. A change of scenery may help refresh your brain.
Before you sit down to study, you should have at hand everything you need and nothing more. The basics are generally textbooks, notes, water, coffee, writing utensils, and paper. If you don’t absolutely need your computer, keep it in your bag. Having it on the table may tempt you into wasting time. Depending on where you are, snacks are also good for a quick energy boost mid-study session. Cell phones should not be part of your studying: keep them in your bag and keep them on silent.
3. Study according to your study style
Over the years, you’ve probably figured out what works and doesn’t work for you, but it doesn’t hurt to take an online quiz to determine what kind of learner you are. There are three types of learners:
Visual learners take in information best when they see it. Knowledge is more easily processed and absorbed when presented in diagrams or charts. Focus on the figures in your textbook: the authors typically illustrate the more important concepts with figures. Make your notes visually appealing: highlight, underline, use lots of colours.
Auditory learners take in information best when they hear it. If you have access to lecture recordings, use them. Another study tip is to read out loud passages from your textbook or better yet, your notes. Hearing your own words spoken at a pace you are comfortable with will help you better absorb the information.
Tactile learners take in information best when they are able to physically work with it. Writing something down repeatedly can help you memorize. Flash cards are also really useful because you can physically shuffle them and the information is presented in bite-sized pieces. For certain subjects, there are modelling kits; for example, if you are studying molecules, consider purchasing kits that allow to visualize atoms and bonds using plastic pieces.
You may find that you employ techniques from all different learning styles—and that is perfectly fine! You may also find that certain subjects are better studied using certain techniques—and that is perfectly fine too! You just need to find what is most comfortable and productive for you.
We all know final exams and assignments are important – they can decide whether you pass the course or not. And that is a stressful thought. Following these tips should help you keep more organized and better able to manage your precious studying time. Good luck!