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Study Smart, Stress Less

15 Study Tips to Help You Ace Your Finals

Is there any crueler season for college students than spring? The temperature is rising, the birds are chirping, the entire outdoors is blossoming into a floral wonderland, and all you want is to be out in nature, soaking up every possible ray of sunshine. But there it is, circled in fat red marker on your calendar: FINALS.

We know this is a particularly stressful time for our residents. We also know the tendency for most students is to procrastinate and cram all studying into a string of all-nighters—which has been proven over and over to be the absolute worst way to study! With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of study tips to help get you up to speed in healthier, more productive, less stressful ways:

  1. Create a calendar specifically for the weeks leading up to finals, and schedule out all your study time. Then STICK TO IT. You’re never going to be “in the mood” to study, so you may as well dig in and get it over with.
  2. Prioritize your schedule to give more time and attention to the subjects that are more difficult or are worth more of your grade. Break these subjects into more manageable chunks of study time to help avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  3. Go over your notes each day. Read them out loud or re-write the most important tidbits to help commit them to memory and keep your mind from wandering.
  4. See if you can get a copy of old exams or study guides from your professors to help you anticipate possible questions and narrow your focus. Check the info in the front of your textbook, too—some publishers provide study guides online that could prove helpful.
  5. Keep yourself on track by setting measurable, achievable goals. Rather than trying to memorize the entirety of chapter 15 from your US History textbook, for example, create a timeline of key events and memorize that.
  6. Are you a visual learner? Draw out your information—create charts, diagrams, mindmaps…whatever will best help you “see” the connections and organize the material.
  7. Create flashcards and quiz yourself over your notes.
  8. Find a willing (or imaginary) friend and “teach” them the topics that will be covered on your exam. It doesn’t even matter if they listen to you. The mere act of processing and rephrasing the information for someone else will help you understand it better and sink that knowledge in your own brain.
  9. Get rid of the distractions. Put your phone on silent and keep it in the other room. Turn off email notifications. Use noise-cancelling headphones to listen to calm, preferably instrumental music.
  10. In a rut? Changing up your study spot from time to time not only hits the restart button on your focusing abilities, it can also help aid in information retention. Studies show that our brains make connections between the information it’s studying and background sensations it has at the time. So try migrating from your desk to the library to a favorite local coffee shop to a comfy spot under a shady tree.
  11. TAKE BREAKS. Your brain can only process so much information at once and benefits greatly from short periods of rest. A good formula is to study for 20-30 minutes, then take a 5-10 minute break. Go wash your dishes or do some yoga stretches or take a walk around the block. But try to avoid time-suckers like Facebook or Netflix. Save those as a reward for when you’ve mastered a larger study goal.
  12. Make one of your study breaks each day a cardio break. Even just 30 minutes of walking, jogging, dancing, jumping jacks—whatever your favorite cardio exercise—can help improve your memory, increase your energy, and reduce study-related stress.
  13. Eat your veggies. Studies have shown that eating a balanced diet and healthy snacks like almonds, fruit, vegetables, and yogurt help students perform better when it comes to thinking speed and attention span. And on the day of the test, DEFINITELY eat breakfast, and choose high-fiber, slow-digesting foods like oatmeal over sugary cereals.
  14. Go to bed! Your brain doesn’t function well on a lack of sleep…and sleepiness doesn’t help your stress levels, either.
  15. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re having a hard time understanding or learning the material, seek out a study group or contact your professor. That’s what they’re there for!

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