Photo by Justina Huang
If you’re like most students, when finals time rolls around you can’t help but feel a sense of impending doom. In fact, severe test anxiety affects as much as 20 percent of the school-going population, with another 18 percent having moderate forms of the condition, according to the American Test Anxieties Association. While other students may not struggle with moderate or severe testing anxiety, exams are still a frightening proposition, counting for as much as 30 percent of a final grade.
This often leads students to put off studying until the last possible moment, which results in all-nighters, exhaustion and, ultimately, poor exam grades. Finding better strategies for preparing for finals can help alleviate stress and ensure that you finish your semester strong.
You may already have some study strategies which could be improved, according to Benedict Carey’s September 6, 2010 article “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits” in The New York Times. Holing up in a corner of the library for several days, for example, is actually not as effective as studying smaller chunks of information in more than one location. The brain connects the location with the information you are studying, so when you study that information in more than one place, the brain creates multiple pathways, thus strengthening the memory. Additionally, focusing on only one subject for an extended period of time is less effective than having shorter sessions on varied subjects throughout the day or, even better, over a period of several days or a week, which substantially increases recall.
One tried and true technique that can help you retain information is making and using flashcards, according to the September 8, 2010 article, “9 Awesome Study Tips for College Students”in The Huffington Post. This method of studying and self-testing is extremely effective because writing the cards imprints the information into your mind. Then by reviewing the flashcards, you reactivate the memory and test for comprehension, another technique recommended by the New York Times article. In addition to flashcards, many text books have companion study guides or online content which include quizzes, and websites like Quizlet allow you to create digital flashcards and quiz yourself on them.
Even more important than studying, however, is taking good care of your health. No amount of studying can help you pass an exam if you are too tired or sick to show up. Going to bed and getting up earlier, taking fewer naps, and keeping a consistent sleep schedule all correlate to higher GPAs, according to a February 2013 study by Daniel Taylor entitled “The Role of Sleep in Predicting College Academic Performance” in the journal Behavioral Sleep Medicine. Also try to eat healthy foods and never skip breakfast. Forgoing this important meal has been proven to decrease cognitive performance among students, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Following these tips should help you improve your performance on exams and prevent you from burning out before the end of the semester. Good luck, and remember, summer is waiting for you at the finish line!
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