Feeling nervous before an exam? You’re not alone! Many students put off studying simply because they’re overwhelmed by the work. It’s important, however, to study smarter, not necessarily longer, to ace your test!
Everyone has their own study methods that they swear work. Some stay up all night to review their notes, others form big study groups or playlists with favourite tunes. These routines are often simply habits or superstitions, however, not the most efficient way to learn. While locking yourself in the library may seem like a smart way to study, it can actually have the reverse effect. Instead, try our five tips to perfect your studying and improve your test grades.
1. Go to bed
Perhaps surprisingly, getting a good night’s sleep is often the easiest and most effective way to learn new material. In fact, sacrificing rest can negatively affect key mental assets like memory, reasoning, creativity and problem-solving skills. This means that pulling an all-nighter to study before a big test is quite possibly the worst thing you could do for your grade.
Instead, try to keep your study sessions in the early evening so you don’t stress yourself out before bed, but still reap the benefits of overnight memory consolidation. If you know that you struggle to sleep the night before a test, consider taking steps to prepare for a more restful night. Investing ahead of time in a more comfortable blanket and mattress, soothing noise machine or relaxing aromatherapy can help ensure you get the sleep that your brain and grades deserve.
2. Spread it out
Your brain is better at memorizing and learning information when it’s studied for short periods of time over a few days. This means that instead of cramming for four hours the day before a final, it’s actually more effective to study small, repeated chunks for thirty minutes at a time long before the test. This way, you’re able to focus on specific sections of the test material and organize the information in a more logical structure.
If you need to take a break, don’t feel guilty! Short mental reprieves are a crucial part of the studying process. Try to get up and walk around every half hour or so and grab water or healthy snack.
3. Find the perfect spot
Having a specific spot where you’re used to studying can be a surprisingly helpful tool while learning new material. Repeatedly sitting in the same place while performing one task can train your brain to recognize the area as one where it should become more focused.
Make sure you equip the spot with whatever tools you’ll need: highlighters, pens, paper, or books. Try to keep your phone out of the picture if possible, as well as headphones or music. Music can be pretty distracting, and although some people swear that listening to it helps them focus, don’t do it. Recent studies have shown that rhythmic music and recognizable tunes can actually pull your concentration away from your work.
4. Handwrite a study guide
After reviewing your notes, try writing a breakdown of key points that you’re expecting to see on the exam. Not only does this study guide give you a last-minute checklist to look over before the test, but the act of writing information down helps solidify it in your memory. Try to organize each section by topic and include important terms, dates, or names that you’ll need to remember. Then, before the test, review the guide and highlight areas that you need to pay extra attention to. It should improve your memory and overall performance on the test!
5. Talk it out
Once you feel confident in a section, try to explain the main points out loud and without your notes. This will not only help you better organize your ideas and test your understanding, but it will also make it easier to remember the information. Research has found that reading something out loud helps your brain store it in memory. Plus, the ability to simplify definitions into a sentence or two will prove that you understand the ideas and have learned the material.
If you want to double down on this, go for a jog with a friend and explain the topic to them. Quick partner exercises can provide a great time to talk about your test material, improve your brain’s processing power and relieve test anxiety.
While everyone has their own tried-and-true study methods, there are some quick and easy ways to make improvements. These suggestions are scientifically-proven to improve your test performance, but it’s also important to find what works for you. Develop a balance of your own studying comforts and new techniques. Just remember– give yourself time, space, and quiet in order to study most effectively and ace your exams!