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How to Study for Exams in College

Nov 10, 2015 | Harrison College

How to Study for Exams in College

If you know yourself to be the type of person who breaks out in a nervous sweat at the thought of taking an exam, we are here to help! At Harrison College, we know our students lead busy lives, and with exams being a necessary part of college-level courses, your schedule may become stressful. However, there are measures you can take to make studying for your next big test a little easier—keeping a healthy balance between your academic and personal lives. These helpful tips will help get you through mid-terms, finals and any exams in between.

1. Find the right place to study.

While it may seem appealing to study in the comfort of your own home, it can also become distracting. If you can, try to step away from that busy comfort zone—and all of the distractions within it—and find a quiet place to study. This could be the public library, a nearby park or even your local Harrison campus.

However, once you find a new study spot, do not restrict yourself to only that location. If you usually complete your work in the library, do not spend your entire exam study time there. Find a new place. According to an article in the New York Times, alternating the room where you study improves your retention. Review a chunk of notes in one place, and then move to a new place to study different material.

2. Make a study schedule.

Your daily schedule might be filled with work, taking care of your family, making sure you have time for yourself and a host of other things. In order to stay organized and stress free, try keeping a calendar or maintaining a planner. Write down all of your obligations, and once they are in your calendar, add study time into some of your free moments. If you have scheduled study time, you will be sure to get it done as it will start to become part of your daily routine.

An organized calendar also will help you create a productive study schedule. You can separate topics, classes and notes into a structured format so that you know exactly what needs to be reviewed each day. Researchers at Florida International University found that studying in sections is the most productive way to retain the information you will need on exam day!

3. Learn actively.

While in high school, it may have been easiest to memorize your class notes page by page, but that may not be the best way to study for college exams. You should try to be an active learner, not a passive one. That means rather than just memorizing words or diagrams, you should use the information you are studying and apply it to as many real-life scenarios as you can to understand it better. Once you have applied what you learned, it will be easier to access the information during the exam rather than trying to tap into a memorized list or diagram. One way to be an active learner is by studying from concept to detail. The big concepts are the most important part, so take the time to actually learn the overall concept in order to understand its particular details.

4. Fuel your body and boost brainpower.

Studying should not just be filled with work. Reward yourself by taking breaks as well. By taking time to breathe, stretch, check your phone or go on a walk, you will improve your focus and productivity in the long run. A study in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory says that 20 minutes of cardio can improve your memory. A short walk may be just what you need to stay motivated!

You should also stay hydrated and fed, so grab a quick snack—but choose something healthy to help fuel your body. Though sweet treats may sound like the most appetizing mid-study food, you should try to eat healthy during the weeks leading up to the exam and while you are studying. Cameron Holloway, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Oxford, suggests eating almonds, fruit or yogurt to increase glucose and boost brain fuel.

Another suggestion to improve brain function is to take a power nap. Sacrificing sleep does more harm than it does good. Do not stay up the night before an exam cramming as much information into your memory as you can. Instead, gradually study, and make sure you get at least six hours of sleep in the few days leading up to and the night before your big test.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed during exam time, but if you follow these tips now, it will help ease your anxiety. Do not put off studying for your next exam. Start studying gradually, and remain calm. You are sure to ace the next one!

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