Time has been flying by you for weeks and you realize that your big midterm is coming up in less than a week, how are you going to prepare? When it comes to studying, everyone has got a different approach. Some students have had their head in a book for weeks before, while others can skate by with cramming the night before. If you’re the average college student, you won’t need to dedicate an incredulous amount of time in the library to achieve a good grade on a test, (unless you’ve been skipping class and slacking off.) A lot of students elect to study by downing countless caffeinated beverages and pulling all nighters, which may be a quick fix for a test but it’s devastatingly unhealthy as I’ve come to learn and usually ends up with a lesser grade on the test than you could have scored. While everyone has their individual preferences, such as music vs. no music, coffee shop vs. library or home, there are a few strategies that everyone can benefit from.
Planning ahead is probably the biggest key to lessening the stress and amount of time you’ll have to spend in the books. Keep up on your course work and schedule hourly allotments of studying before the big test. This won’t leave you opening your book at 11:00 pm the night before your test.
Studying in groups or with a partner always helps out. We learn information better by teaching the material to someone else. It causes us to use the information in new ways and forms better memory circuits in the brain. This can also make studying more enjoyable than slaving away by yourself. Make sure to study with someone who is going to reciprocate the effort and not just goof off the whole time you hang out.
Review your material at night before you go to sleep. Studies have shown that we commit most of the information gathered throughout the day primarily during sleep, so reviewing before you hit the sack will give you an edge up on those flashcards you’ve been looking at all day. On top of that make sure to get plenty of sleep, at least 6-8 hours. It’s unhealthy for the brain to go without much needed sleep, and you perform worse under less sleep. Caffeine helps you relieve the feelings of grogginess but it doesn’t erase sleep deprivation and won’t help your brain perform at maximum capacity.
The study aides you choose can be powerful tools, so find out what works best for you. You can rewrite your notes or outline the book, make flashcards, read, or just review your old work. Always try and use the information you’ve learned in situations outside of the classroom. Reusing information given in lecture in new and novel ways helps you understand it better and commit the concepts to memory. Caffeine is great in moderate doses, as is chewing peppermint gum which will actually boost your cognitive focus, but no matter what testimonials your friends give you, stay away from ADD and ADHD medications because they are not only illegal to take but they are highly addictive and can cause serious complications.
Take it slow and divide your study load up into manageable bunches, be healthy, stay calm and your studying will prove to be productive and easy going instead of stressful and unsatisfying.