Exams can be major sources of stress for even the best and brightest college student. Nailing an exam isn’t about being the smartest geek in class. No matter what level your natural intelligence, good preparation is usually the deciding factor in your grade. There are many things you can do ahead of time to give yourself an edge.
Give Yourself the Study Time
Time management and keeping a planned study schedule are some of the best things you can do to ease the stress of studying and increase retention. This means studying in relatively short intervals and making plenty of opportunities to study ahead. Studying in 20-30 minute sessions with short breaks in between is more beneficial than a single long cramming session. Your brain needs time to organize and connect with the information, and this is best done through short periods of intense focus followed by rest.
Avoiding long cramming sessions right before the test is an important part of this, too. The infamous all-night cram session before finals is notorious among college students. It is also one of the worst possible things you could do. It is better to space out your studying in short intervals as far in advance as possible, studying a little bit each day. You could do a few short sessions the night before the exam, but you shouldn’t have to. There are more important things to do the night before.
Don’t Forget Eating and Sleeping
Sometimes the difference in your grade comes down to things you may not even think are important, like eating and sleeping. In fact, these basic factors can have a tremendous effect on your ability to focus and remember during the test and during your study sessions.
Low carb diets may be the fad, but they aren’t good news for your study habits or academic success. One study of college students showed that a week of a diet high in protein and fat and low in carbs had decreased testing performance, compared to those who ate a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Small amounts of carbs taken at the right time may actually improve your mental performance. This is because the brain consumes a great deal of energy. This isn’t an excuse to gorge on donuts and soda, but a granola bar or similar snack can go a long way. Make sure to eat something the morning of the test and keep a healthy diet for the entire week before.
Proper sleep is also important. Your grade will benefit more from a full eight hours of sleep than from an all-nighter. Getting the proper amount of REM sleep has been linked to better memory and retention. Skipping this important step may put all your other hard studying work to waste.
Exercise the Body for the Mind
There is a strong link between physical exercise, mental health and cognitive ability. When you work out, you aren’t just improving your physical health. You are doing many things to improve your mental health as well.
Exercise improves oxygenation in the blood and circulation. This means more nutrients and oxygen are flowing to your brain and more waste material is being removed. These are excellent for cognitive function because your working brain consumes a great deal of oxygen. Exercise is also more likely to help you feel better and improve your mood and alertness.
A proper exercise routine is important, and this includes recovery after your workout, like a post-workout recovery drink. As ASEA demonstrates in their YouTube video, such drinks can benefit you by providing your body with a boost of needed nutrients and vital compounds.
Alternate Your Study Spots
One interesting way to improve your studying and boost retention is to find novel places to conduct said business. Instead of spending every afternoon for a week at the same table in the library, visit a coffee shop or park where you’ve never studied before. Research has shown a link between studying in new places or varying places and the level of retention. It’s a little mental trick you play on your brain that increases its attention to details. Sometimes small things really can give you that extra boost.
Preparation is the key to performance on any major college exam. Before your next big test, put in the time and effort to excel and skip the infamous habits that will only hurt your success.
This article was contributed by Hannah Whittenly.