Proven Methods for Improved Final Exam Preparation and Focus
Based on a 2013 article by Shaniese Alston, Office of New Media of the State University of New York
- Say NO to cramming: Study in 20-50 minute increments and give yourself 5-10 minutes in between. By distributing learning over time versus cramming, you will typically gain more long-term retention of the material.
- Say YES to cardio: Research shows that just 20 minutes of cardio can improve your memory. Whether you opt to dance, jog, walk, bike or swim, exercise will increase your energy level and reduce the effects of stress.
- Eat superfoods/antioxidants: Everybody knows you should eat breakfast the day of a big test. Cameron Holloway, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Oxford suggests that high-carb, high-fiber, slow-digesting foods like oatmeal are best (oatmeal is more filling than cereal) and that eating a balanced diet that includes fruit and vegetables helps your brain hold steady.
- Alternate study spots: Shake up your finals routine! Spending all night in the library can be draining. According to the New York Times, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. Why? Supposedly, the brain makes subtle associations between what it is studying and the background sensations it has at the time. Try alternating your study spots between the library, a study room, and a quiet coffee house.
- Time management: Cramming causes anxiety, which lowers your ability to retain information. By creating a balanced study plan and schedule, you will be able to study each subject in its entirety and ultimately boost your test performance.
- Avoid the all-nighter: According to a 2008 study by Pamela Thacher, Associate Professor of Psychology at St. Lawrence University, all-nighters impair reasoning and memory for as long as four days resulting in lower grades. According to Dan Taylor, director of a sleep-and-health-research lab at the University of North Texas, you should review the toughest material immediately before going to bed the night prior to the test. It makes it easier to recall the material later.
- MINIMIZE distractions: Research shows that while many students prefer to study while listening to music, texting friends, or watching television, they are less likely to retain information that way. If you must listen to music, stick to instrumental music and consider downloading these study tools to keep you focused!
- MAXIMIZE practice-testing: You may have thought highlighting, re-reading and summation would be effective ways to study. Think again! A 2013 study, Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques, found that these techniques do not consistently boost students’ performance. Practice testing through the use of flashcards, or taking practice exams was observed to be a highly effective studying technique.
Use these study tips to create and implement your own survival plan for finals week this semester. Need help or encouragement? Stop by the Academic Success Center in VanZoeren 261 for you own personalized study session.