Study Tips For Exams: 12 Ways To Ace Your Finals

Tue, 17 December, 2013 at 10:45 am


As finals approach, it can be difficult to remember that the stress, sleeplessness and brain drain shall pass (and, for that matter, so will you). But there are also myriad ways to make the next few weeks more bearable -- and to ensure that you make the grade. Below, check out 12 study tips that will ease the final countdown, and maybe even help you boost your GPA.

Study In Chunks

Although it's tempting (and sometimes inevitable) cramming really isn't the best way to study. According to the Dartmouth Academic Skills Center, you should study in 20-50 minute increments and give yourself a 5 to 10 minute break between each session. For best results, study throughout one full week.

Listen To Mozart

Certain types of music, like Mozart's compositions -- which follow a 60 bpm pattern -- have been shown to activate both the right and left sides of the brain in listeners. Stimulation of both sides is linked with increased recall, and so listening while studying can help increase the likelihood that you will retain relevant information.

Alternate Study Spots

The New York Times explained that rather than sticking to one study spot, you should switch things up when reviewing for exams. (If you do have to stay in a single location though, we hope it's one of these).

Drink Cocoa

Packed with antioxidants as well as cognitive and mood enhancers, the unadulterated cacao bean has been recently lauded as a superfood. But once it is processed into chocolate bars, cacao's healthy benefits are overpowered by sugar -- which will provide a spurt of energy followed by a longer crash. To take full advantage of the nutritious bean, dissolve a spoonful of organic cocoa into a hot milk of your choice and add cinnamon, espresso and cayenne pepper for optimal energy. Check out more recipes here.

Form A Study Group

Study groups can motivate you to get started when it's hard to motivate yourself -- plus, explaining difficult concepts out loud will help you figure out what you understand and what you still need to go over, and getting a group together will allow you to divide and conquer definition of terms and explanations of concepts. And if you can get each member to bring a snack, that's incentive to actually meet.

Prevent Test Anxiety

If mere mention of the phrase "final exam" makes your heart beat a little faster, mastering exam material may not be all you need to worry about. To calm yourself down -- and prevent from blanking during the test -- spend some time before the exam imagining yourself acing it. You also might want to induce stress while studying, and then practice quelling fear by taking deep breaths, focusing on what you know and keeping things (including the importance of the test) in perspective.

Jog Around Campus

According to some, just 20 minutes of cardio a day can help improve your memory. And for those of you who can, cardio outside is even better -- taking a break in nature is more relaxing than taking a walk down a city street, which calls upon you to engage actively with your environment. But if it's freezing out and the gym is closed, you can always take a quick dance break.

Manage Your Time


By the time finals roll around, your time is precious -- every minute counts. Which is why scheduling is essential during the weeks (er, days) prior to exams. So as not to go totally bonkers during this stressful time, make a realistic study schedule for yourself. Leave yourself time for breaks -- you'll be taking them anyway -- and be sure to prioritize according to which class you'll need to study for the most.

Go To Office Hours

Nobody ever wants to go to office hours, which is why professors and TAs are so happy whenever students do show up -- the trick is to go a few weeks before finals, when you are sure to have plenty of time to meet and discuss. Even if you only have one question, feedback from a professor will help you figure out what he thinks is most important, and will help you figure out what to focus on while studying.

Approach Each Class Differently


If you try to study for your calculus exam the way you would study for a literature exam, you probably won't do very well. Check out this handy guide to learn how to study for language, chemistry, math and essay-based exams.

Build On What You Know


If you start by studying what you know and add more difficult or recent material as you proceed, you can associate new information with familiar material. Rather than taking on intimidating amounts of new information, this will ease you into a comprehensive review and ensure you don't forget basics. Check out more review principles here.

Make It Interesting


Just as it's harder to recall a list of 20 words than a 20-word sentence, it's harder to recall a list of boring facts than a story -- to help retain information, try to connect with whatever it is you're learning. Whether by using memory aids (like mnemonic devices) or making facts personal, bringing test material to life will make it much easier to remember.


*Article originally published by the Huffington Post on 12/01/10.

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