As the semester is winding down, exam stress may be winding you up. But here are some tips to help you study hard, stress less, and ace those looming finals
A Good Place to Study….
- Is comfortable (but not so comfortable that you’ll fall asleep)
- Is quiet and free from distractions, including TV, music
- Is free from interruptions – if not at home, try the library
- Has the supplies you need including pens, pencils, highlighters, paper, dictionary, thesaurus, calculator
- Has enough light and a comfortable temperature
- Involves a study group, if you study better in social situations
- Is where you are alone, if you study better solo
- Start studying early and don’t procrastinate. Cramming isn’t conducive to testing success.
- Try to make a study schedule and follow it daily.
- Study in chunks – maybe 45-60 minutes at a time. Schedule short relaxation breaks in between the chunks. This will help you retain the information and avoid burnout.
Active Textbook Reading Strategy – SQ3R
- Survey – Gather the information necessary to focus on what you’re about to read
Read the title
Read the introduction and summary
Skim through the chapter and make note of the boldface headings and subheadings, graphics, charts, maps, and diagrams
Notice the attention-grabbers – terms, names, and ideas in bold print or italics
- Question – Help your mind engage and concentrate
One section at a time, skim the boldface headings and create questions in your mind about what you’re about to read and learn.
The better your questions, the better your comprehension is likely to be.
- 3R – Read, recite and review
Read each section with your questions in mind. Highlight important information.
Recite – stop every once in awhile, look up from the book, and put in your own words what you have just read.
Review – After you have finished, review all the main points.
Using the SQ3R will help you retain the very complex and detailed information you are reviewing for tests
Memory Aids (Mnemonics)
- Acronyms – Invented combinations of letters. Each letter is a cue to an idea you need to remember. Example: BRASS is an acronym for how to shoot a rifle – Breath, Relax, Aim, Sight, Squeeze.
- Acrostics – An invented sentence where the first letter of each word is a cue to an idea you need to remember. Example: EVERY GOOD BOY DESERVES FUN is an acrostic to remember the order of the G-clef notes on sheet music – E, G, B, D, and F.
- Method of Loci – Select any location that you have spent a lot of time in and have easily memorized. Imagine yourself walking through the location, selecting clearly defined places – the door, sofa, refrigerator, etc. Imagine yourself putting objects that you need to remember into each of these places by walking through this location in a direct path. Example: If you had to remember George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Richard Nixon, you imagine walking up to the door of your location and seeing a dollar bill stuck in the door; when you open the door Jefferson is reclining on the sofa and Nixon is eating out of the frig.
- Keyword Method (for difficult vocabulary) – First, after considering the difficult term you need to remember, select a key word that sounds like the difficult term. Next, visualize an image, which involves the key word with the meaning of the difficult term. Example: the Spanish word “cabina” means “phone booth.” For the key word, you might think of “cab in a…” Then you invent an image of a cab trying to fit in a phone booth – “cabina” = “phone booth.”
- Chaining (for ordered or unordered lists) – Create a story where each word or idea you have to remember cues the next idea you need to recall. If you had to remember the words Napoleon, ear, door, and Germany, you could invent a story of Napoleon with his ear to a door listening to people speak in German.
Test Taking – The DETER Strategy
Read the test directions very carefully.
Ask the instructor to explain anything about the test directions you don’t understand.
Examine the entire test to see how much you have to do and what questions you’ll need to answer.
Once you have examined the entire test, decide on approximately how much time you’ll want to spend on each section.
Plan to spend the most time on test sections that count for the most points.
Answer the questions you find the easiest first, then go back and do the more difficult items.
If you have time remaining, review your answers and make them as complete and accurate as possible.
Sleep, Eat, Move
- Get plenty of sleep the night before an exam so that you’re fully alert and your brain is firing optimally during the test. Try reviewing any concepts with which you’re struggling quickly before retiring then once again upon rising the next day. This will help bring clarity to areas of difficulty.
- Ditch the junk food while studying. Opt instead for brain food such as:
Foods high in iron like red meats and beans – they boost cognitive functions
Fresh fruits, which are good for memory and recall of information
Nuts and seeds, which are rich in Omega 3s, which assist memory function
Tea (instead of coffee or Red Bull) because it contains catechins which help you relax
Hot Cocoa – it will enhance your mood because it releases endorphins and sharpen your reaction time and memory
Lots of water
- Schedule exercise time during Finals Week. Take walks or go for a few jogs. Just 20 minutes of cardio per day is a sure fire way to improve your memory.