Midterms are just around the corner, and soon the dreaded Final Exams will arrive. So we’ve done the hard work here at Compass, and gathered all of the most useful and time-tested study tips into one place.
Now instead of galavanting all over the web, you’ll have a collection of learning skills right at your fingertips, so you can spend the precious time before exams playing Fallout 4.
All study tips shown here have been proven (by Science!!) to actually work. Of course, not everything works for everyone, so choose the ones that you think will work best for you.
Feed Your Head
Just like an athlete in training, your brain needs fuel for peak performance. This means you need to adopt healthier habits, such as eating nutrient-rich foods and getting proper hydration (drinking lots of water, for you vocabulary-challenged folks).
What you eat and drink plays a crucial role in how sharp your brain is. Healthy foods like dark green leafy vegetables, fruits, and whole grains keep your brain energized. Junk foods increase fatigue, and can lead to the infamous food coma. So ditch the chips and soda for a granola bar and yogurt.
And don’t forget the H2O. Proper hydration has been proven to combat anxiety, as well as increasing short and long-term memory function, all of which might come in handy when you sit down to take your exam.
Snore Your Way to Success
Sleeping should be a pleasure after a few hours of studying, but some students just can’t resist the temptation to reach for those elusive A’s and pull an all-nighter. This is one of the worst things you can do.
When you enter deep sleep, your body systems repair muscle, tissue, and bone that has become worn with daily use. Meanwhile, your brain sorts and files new information that you have learned during the day.
If you skimp on sleep, there isn’t enough time for your body and mind to recover from the stresses of the day. No matter how long you study, you won’t be able to retrieve enough information from your exhausted brain on exam day if you haven’t had enough sleep.
If you can’t get in a solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night, fill in the cracks with naps. While not as effective as true deep sleep, naps can help to repair your systems, as well as refreshing your spirit before you return to your study.
Continue to regulate your intake of food and water, and get adequate sleep throughout the exam season to stay in superior physical and mental shape.
Negatory for all of these supposedly helpful study skills:
- Highlighters —They don’t help you learn, though they do look quite lovely as they decorate the page.
- All-Nighters — One all-nighter can leave your memory impaired for up to four days, effectively wiping you out during exam week.
- Multitasking —It actually reduces the amount of information you retain.
Study Skills that Work
Take notes and even rewrite your original notes. Writing something down is the memory equivalent of reading it seven times.
It’s best to handwrite it, because writing by hand stimulates a different part of your brain than typing, which should result in better retention of the information.
Pull out the colored pencils and pens. Organizing your notes by color provides another memory boost. When you try to envision your notes, the color of the writing stimulates your memory.
Read it aloud. You’re 50% more likely to remember something if you say it out loud instead of just reading it over and over silently. Probably not the best idea in a quiet library, though.
Turn it off
Get rid of electronic distractions. Just shutting off the TV can improve your productivity by 500%. Imagine what you could accomplish without your cell phone!
If you lack willpower, shut off electronic distractions with these sites:
Gluing yourself to a chair in the library may not be the best option. In fact, changing the location where you study might be just the thing to perk you up and give you a fresh outlook. Scope out available areas on campus that you can claim for your own.
Another problem with the glued-into-chair scenario is that you can’t study effectively if you try to barrel on through without a break. You actually remember more if you take regular breaks. This is because your brain does a better job of remembering the first and last bits of information that you encounter— the first, because the rest of what you learn is built on that, and the last, because it remains in your working memory.
By starting and stopping frequently, you can maximize your study time by amassing more first and last moments of study, which are better retained by the brain.
So study for 25 minutes, then take a five minute break. Then do it again. And again. And…
Teach what you know to others, or tell your peers what you’ve just learned. In order to explain something to another person, you have to thoroughly understand it, which is why teaching a subject results in the highest levels of retention. What this means is that you’ll remember it much better, much longer.
Test yourself, that is. Testing trains your brain to retrieve information from memory. A study showed that students who studied material and then took a practice test retained the information longer than students who studied the information twice.
If you’re not up to preparing a bazillion flash cards, then take a look at Quizlet, a free website which provides learning tools for students, including flashcards, study, and even game modes. Quizlet currently has over 100 million user-generated flashcard sets and more than 40 million monthly visitors. It’s among the top 50 websites in the U.S. And it now has versions for iPhone, iPad, and Android.
This sample Quizlet link helps you learn the names of colors in French.
Watch a documentary to get a deeper understanding of your subject (especially for subjects like history, anthropology, social sciences, etc). If you can’t find a documentary, see what’s available on YouTube.
Grab a Group
Gather a group of friends or classmates to study. This is called collaborative learning, and it is a time-tested trick that many professors use to cement information into their students’ heads.
Tap into music while studying. It can calm you down, create more conscientious studying, elevate your mood, and help you to stay focused for longer periods of time. Of course, some music works better than others. I’m talking to you, Mr. Death Metal Crust Punk Grindcore Screamo.
Yuk it up
In a recent study, 20 normal, healthy adults watched a funny video, distraction-free, for 20 minutes, while a control group sat calmly with no video. Afterwards, they performed memory tests and had saliva samples analyzed for stress hormones.
Those who got to laugh the 20 minutes away with the funny video scored better on short-term memory tests. And salivary levels of the stress hormone cortisol — a memory enemy of sorts — were significantly decreased in the humor group.
The less stress you have, the better your memory. It works like this: Humor reduces stress hormones, lowers your blood pressure, and increases your mood state, according to Dr. Lee Berk.
So to improve your stress levels while preparing for a test, take a minute to joke around with friends, and chuckle, chortle, guffaw, cackle, giggle, titter, snicker, and all those other words that might show up on your vocabulary test.
Sweet & Simple
Set goals, then reward yourself
Award yourself with an ice cream cone when you finish three chapters, or three pages, depending upon your stamina.
Get on the Gummy Bear Train
Place a Gummy Bear at the end of each section in your textbook to encourage you to keep reading. Every time you finish a section, you get to eat the gummy bear!
Just chew it
Chew a piece of gum — not your regular brand — while you’re studying. This can help jog your memory when you bring the same gum along to chew during exam time. A brand unfamiliar to you works best.
Speed it up
Crunched for time? Listen to taped lessons at double the speed, which has the added advantage of making the speaker sound like a chipmunk.
Turn on the bright lights, baby!
Bright lights increase learning and help ward off depression (which we’re all prone to during finals). Plus you can see better, duh.
Not just another pretty face
Typeface, that is. If you’re dyslexic, there is now a special font created by Christian Boer, a dyslexic Dutch designer, which allows dyslexics to read more easily and make fewer mistakes.
For the rest of us, Times New Roman is traditionally the easiest to read.
Learn how to Google like a pro. This skill is a godsend for anything related to academics, as well as…. well, just about anything else.
Sleep on it!
The night before the exam, review your notes right before you go to bed. Then douse the lights, quit worrying, and get a good night’s sleep. This is one of the best ways to ensure that you remember your notes for the test.
Walk This Way
About an hour before the exam, take a hike. Seriously. Go outside walk briskly. Exercise can boost your memory and brain power, according to Dr. Chuck Hillman of the University of Illinois. Twenty minutes of exercise before an exam can improve performance.
Take that pack of gum you chewed while studying!