Allow me to paint a familiar picture…
It’s 6 pm on a Tuesday night and you haven’t started studying for your exam the following morning. You hesitantly creep toward the dreaded desk in the corner of your room. You feel anxious about your upcoming return to the battleground where many battles have been lost before. The sight of the war zone in front of you is traumatising. As your grab the back of the chair for dear life and slowly lower yourself into the seat to face the explosion that awaits, your heart begins to race and your hands become clammy. The grim realisation that you have a night of cramming ahead of you creates a pit in your stomach. You take a deep breath and plunge into the sea of confusion and stress.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
All of the science behind study habits and their effectiveness points to cramming as being one of the worst methods for preparing for an exam or an assessment. We understand that life can be hectic and sometimes you don’t have a choice in the matter, but we’re here to provide you with some useful tips to help you avoid adding unnecessary stress to your already bustling life. Here are seven awesome study tips that are backed by science!
Shake your tail feather.
Exercise has been shown to improve memory. Regular exercise keeps your mind alert and gets the blood pumping, so we suggest taking short study breaks to sneak in some light cardio. You don’t have to train for a marathon, but even going outside for a walk or a bike ride can greatly increase your level of focus and concentration. So, get out there and shake your tail feather!
You can’t rush art.
Cramming does not work. Let me repeat: cramming does not work. You may be able to swing an average grade if you know exactly what material you need to jam into your brain for the exam, but in most cases this is not an effective tactic. What we suggest instead is to study in numerous small bursts over a period of time. Easier said than done, right? Realistically, none of us have time to study for hours every single night, but I think we can all spare 20 minutes to an hour each day to review material. Studies have shown that studying in small burst yields not only better test results, but also greater memory retention of the material covered. In this instance, slow and steady really does win the race!
Become the teacher.
Don’t shy away from a little role reversal! Teach someone else the material you’re covering instead of just reading it over time and time again. By teaching someone else, you have to commit to knowing the content as opposed to passively reading it over. Adding practical explanations and examples to your lessons will also work in your favour, as it forces you to develop an even greater understanding of the material.
Sleep now or forever hold your peace.
This might be an obvious one, but since so many students still believe in cramming the night before an exam, we feel as though it still needs to be said: sleep is very important in achieving your academic success! The more tired you are, the less information your brain will be capable of retaining and the slower it will process information. Not to mention, it actually takes your body days to recover after a night of zero sleep, so this counterproductive tactic will put you ever further behind than you were before. Moral of the story with this one: sleep, don’t weep!
….With flash cards, of course! Rather than reading over your notes a thousand times, creating flash cards and quizzing yourself has proved to be a more effective method of retaining information. By quizzing yourself, you will be able to gather a clearer understanding of the areas in which you need the most improvement and then you can focus your time and efforts on the topics that pose the most difficulty. An added bonus of the old flash card method? Creating the cards can actually be fun if colour coordinating and doodling is as exciting for you as it is for us!
This might be a difficult one for many of you, as it’s becoming more and more difficult to disconnect ourselves from the rapidly changing and rather consuming media ecosystems of today. Taking a break from the technologies that normally make your world go round will remove external distractions and help you focus on the task at hand. Also, for most people, information generally becomes more engrained in our heads when study notes are written by hand. You may call this retro. We call it nostalgic (and effective!).
Eat your way to the top.
For many of us, stress triggers unhealthy eating habits. When we’re busy, we resort to eating foods that are convenient, and these foods do not generally come packed with nutrients our bodies and brains need. We also tend to snack more when we’re bored, and let’s face it, studying isn’t always the most thrilling activity in the world. Scientific research has uncovered some ‘brain foods’, or foods that are linked to an increase in memory and brain function. Some of these foods include: blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes, nuts and pumpkin seeds, oily fish, whole grains, broccoli and sage. Try replacing the unhealthy munchies on your desk with some nuts and berries and start boosting your brainpower!
We hope our list of study tips will be useful for your next exam prep. Just remember to eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep, take a break from technology, study in small sessions, test yourself and teach others, and you’re bound to feel more confident going into your next exam!