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How to Study for Finals

Finals season is upon us, which means only one thing: stress. Luckily, there are ways that you can de-stress, prep for exams, and ensure that you get good grades all at the same time.

It’s important to recognize that studying is a habit that you need to forge early and be consistent about. Recent studies from the University of Texas at Austin show that college students perform better, on average, when daily quizzes are included at the beginning of each lesson. Similarly, rehearsing what you’ve just read, rather than studying with flash cards or other tools of rote memorization, more often helps commit things to (long-term) memory. If these statements make you worried, though, remember that there is still a lot you can do to prepare.

1. Always study with location in mind. Make sure that the place in which you are studying is calm and quiet, but not necessarily silent! The scientific jury, it seems, is still out as to whether or not background noise and music can facilitate studying. For this, you should just do what you’ve found is best for you, personally. However, the jury is not out on questions of physical distractions: unless you’re taking a break, it’s important to make sure that your eyes are not wandering! Study somewhere with minimal distractions and fewer people.

2. Create your own study guide. Study guides are super helpful tools, but many professors do not supply them. If this is the case, make your own! Outlining important information can be very helpful for multiple-choice style tests, while creating essay questions and sample answers can increase your stability during an essay-based test.

3. Study things not on the study guide. If your professor is a kind-hearted individual and has provided you with a study guide, try not to use this as the end-all, be-all of the test. Realistically, professors will not provide and entirely comprehensive study guide, because they want you to be doing your own work for the class. GO through your textbook and your class notes with a fine-tooth comb, making sure of what holes are present in the provided study guide.

4. Stay well-rested. This may seem silly or obvious, but staying well-rested is one of the best ways to facilitate memory solidification. Students on average not only suffer from sleep deprivation, but also are more likely to pull all-nighters than the rest of the population. A recent Medical News study finds that “diminishing sleep in order to study was actually associated with doing more poorly on a test, quiz, or homework (the opposite of the students’ intent).” Try to get your eight hours!

5. More than anything else, pace yourself. This involves consistent, planned-out studying, as well as scheduling what times and days you want to study, for what classes, when, and how. Make a study guide for each class and determine how much time you’ll need to dedicate to actually studying. Similarly, diversify your strategies—talk to others about the information that you’ve learned in class, fill out study guides with people in the same field, and use visual tools to organize things beautifully and engagingly.

Finals can be a stressful time for all of us. Remember, consistency and practice are the keys to success!

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