Studying for Finals: 7 Tips to Help You Prepare

April 24, 2014 | More Tips


The end of a semester is an exciting time. You’ll have more credits, be a step closer to graduation, and you’ll get a brief break from school – or be finished forever. But before you throw confetti and celebrate your triumph, you need to pass your final exams. So when studying for finals, apply these tips and you’ll be prepared for success.

7 Tips for successfully studying for finals

   1.    Don’t cram. You’ve heard it before and it’s still great advice. Waiting until the last minute to study is not only ineffective, but staying up all late before a test can severely impair your alertness, reasoning, and memory.

Start studying at least a week before the exam. By studying earlier, you have time to get help if you don’t understand something. You’ll also retain information better by studying over a longer period.  Skip the cram session by preparing ahead and get a good night’s sleep (see tip 4).

2.    Free yourself from distractions. You may think that you’re a talented multi-tasker, but research shows that students understand and remember less when they multi-task during study sessions. Even basketball star Lebron James observes a “Twitter blackout” during crucial game periods to stay focused. Save the social media and web surfing for study breaks and keep disctactions to a minimum.

 3.    Find a proper location to study – then change it. When studying, find a location that’s free of distractions, noise, and clutter. Study in 15-30 minute intervals followed by a 10-minute break. It’s important to find a quite, distraction-free place to study, but it’s also important to change that location periodically.

According to Dr. Bjork, a psychologist at UCLA, our brains make associations between our surroundings and what we’re studying. By varying our surroundings we create more associations, which helps when we’re recalling the studied material.

4.    Take care of yourself. A healthy diet, exercise, and 7-8 hours of sleep can dramatically improve your focus, memory, and ability to solve problems.

 Key nutrition includes antioxidants from fruits and vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids help improve brain function, a study by the University of Georgia’s Department of Exercise Science found that just 20 minutes of exercise improves memory recall and the ability to process information. As far as sleep, get 7-8 hours per night, especially the night before a test.

5.    Take practice exams. Practice exams help you identify what you don’t know and it forces you to reason through problems and recall what you studied, which can be beneficial for retaining information.

 Dr. Jeffrey D. Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University, found that students who practice retrieving information, instead of simply studying it, show a 50% improvement in long-term retention of the material.

6.    Form a study group (but only if it works for you). For some people, study groups are great for sharing information and exchanging different ways of learning. They hold you accountable, help you reason through problems, and help you answer questions. But for others, they can serve as more of a distraction.

 Recognize what method works best for you and find ways to optimize your study sessions.

7.    Relax. In the words of Sun Tzu, “the war is won before it starts”. Follow the previous 6 study tips, and then relax. After productive studying, practice testing, healthy eating, exercising and sleeping well. You should be well prepared for finals. So take a deep breath and allow your preparation to work for you.

 Exam finals are your opportunity to show off the knowledge you’ve learned throughout the semester. Share your own study tips on Twitter using the hashtag #BCStudyTips.


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