Exam Studying Tips to Get Through the Grind - How to Finish the Semester Like a Pro

Let's face it. Plenty of us hate studying. Even for those of us who like it, (we love you, but you're a little weird), studying often gets super stressful when it comes time for exams, especially finals.


Everyone seems to have their own methods, both for studying and for coping with the stress. Have you ever wished you had a little arsenal at your disposal when it came time to put down the phone and get to work? Read on!


There's a ton of stuff circulating the Web, and college and university campuses, regarding this subject.


Plenty of people want to tell you that their way is the best way to study. Here's the bottom line: it has to work for you or it won't do you any good. So let's start by looking at the most common studying tips.



Wipebook whiteboard studying


Listen to music (often a specific kind).


Get away from device distractions.


Get plenty of sleep.


DON'T cram.


Use flash cards.


Review, review, review!


So that's a pretty decent list for starters. What's the skinny on these tips, though? Trying to implement them all can be a daunting task. Let's just pick a couple and use them as our springboard into becoming a "more studious student".


We already know we shouldn't be sleep-deprived or cramming, so we'll sweep those off the table for now. Let's opt for music and flash cards.



"Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks, and invents."  --Ludwig van Beethoven.


In that case, let's start with music! In his book, Music and Learning, Chris Brewer poses a question pointing out that it doesn't make sense that music plays such an integral role in our lives, yet often we turn it off for school and work--the two things that take up most of our time.


It's a good point. The answer comes down to determining what kind of music is the right kind for those situations.


What kind should we listen to, if we want to increase our study power or our mental focus and information intake?


Studies suggest classical music, but as a more general and flexible rule, try to stick to instrumental music. This way you won't find yourself singing along with a catchy lyric.


Instrumental music does more to increase your focus on the task at hand without distracting you. Classical and jazz are two very good options for genres to listen to when you're studying.



Flash cards! Sure, you've heard about them a bunch since high school, maybe even since middle school. But how are they beneficial, and how should they be used? Well, answering how they're beneficial is easy.


Brainscape says the top reason flash cards are so effective is that when you use them, you engage in a mental activity known as active recall.


This happens when you attempt to recall or recreate a concept from scratch--quizzing yourself--rather than just staring at the information on the page of a textbook.


Brainscape goes on to say that active recall methods have been proven to create stronger neuron connections for those memory traces.


Make sure you're doing flash cards right.


First, you should be gathering key concepts and vital information about the topic(s) you are studying. Then, you need to write these concepts in brief form on the cards.


Studies show that time and time again, when a subject writes facts down, the subject is much more likely to remember those facts than if the subject had only read them. Even typing things into a laptop or tablet isn't the same; nothing beats writing it down.



Wipebook whiteboard notebook

Once you've written the flash cards, chances are you'll already remember more than when you started. It's also important that you don't just copy long definitions from text; you need to write the concepts in your own words. Then you just have to make sure you quiz yourself, immediately checking each card to make sure you're learning and remembering the correct information.


Once you have your cards all written, try drilling yourself on them for 15-20 minutes at a time, with 5 minute breaks in between. When you've gone through all the cards, mix up the order and do it again.



Once you feel you've learned the terms, put the cards down for a day and come back and see what you remember. Make sure to turn on some soothing instrumental music while you're at it, and put your phone on silent.


Happy studying!