10 Ways to Tackle Your Upcoming Exams

Throughout your college career, you face multiple midterms and finals, maybe even some on the same day. However, not everyone has mastered the techniques of how to get the most out of your studying and still remain sane. With every exam and class being different, it is difficult to discover the secret for exam success.

Here are 10 tips and tricks listed to help you maximize your study time and still have a life during exams!

1. Get organized!

Open up your calendar application on your computer or your phone and look at the week ahead of your exams. Then see how much content you need to cover, and divide up the content into sections for each day. You retain the most information by learning in small chunks throughout a longer timespan. This way you do not have to cram and pull an all-nighter. There are studies out that one all-nighter could effect up to four days of learning and memory (1).

2. Go shopping!

This applies to everything. When you buy new workout clothes, don’t you want to go to the gym that same day to workout and show it off? This same mentality could be used for studying. So go out and buy new notebooks or colored pens and use them towards your advantage and start taking better notes.

3. Eat Smart!

Most people start to stress out and eat all the candy and ice cream in sight, but not only is this detrimental to your waistline but also to your brain! When you are stressing out, you are causing your body to counteract the stress by decreasing your metabolism. So, you are consuming more calories but your body is not burning as much as it usually does. The effect on your brain is similar. You are consuming sweets and fatty foods as a source of quick energy, causing you to mentally and physically crash earlier than usual once the energy has worn off. The easiest solution is to make sure that you are eating foods that are higher in protein content. Protein is long-lasting energy source found in foods such as cheese, chicken, eggs and more. Eat when you’re hungry and not when you’re bored or stressed. Test your hunger by drinking a glass of water or a cup of tea, wait 15 minutes, and then ask yourself if you’re still hungry. Your brain and jeans will thank you in the end! (2)

4. Find Your Study Niche

Study in a new place that accommodates all of your study preferences. If you like a more social place try the Green Room or the places right near LTS or the Writing Center.  Want to try a quiet place? Try the atrium in Mandel, any of the floors of the Science Center, common places in Ridgewood or the Village, or any of the conference rooms on the second floor of the SCC.

5. Encourage Yourself!

Before you start to study, set a motivational reward at the end of each study session. This could be anything from going to the gym for an hour, walk around outside, or relaxing with social media. Having a motivational goal would most likely motivate you to actually finish going through your content with something to look forward to at the end. (3)

6. Study Breaks are a Must!

When you stop paying attention, you are going to perform poorly and that is why you need to take a break when your brain tells you that you need it.  Studies have been conducted with subjects doing the same task for long periods of time show that these prolonged tasks results in a decline of performance versus subjects that took miniature breaks in between (4). It has been proven that studying for 40-90 minutes with a 10-minute break would help your concentration while studying (5).

7. Class Notes versus the Textbook?

When there is too much content to study for an exam, not everyone knows how to most effectively handle all of it. This technique might seem tedious and time consuming, but it is effective. Take your notes from class, and compare those notes that you have in your notebook to the content in the textbook. While this may seem pointless, you are essentially studying and reinforcing the concept while doing so. Sometimes the content covered by the professor in the class is confusing, the textbook or even the Internet could always provide a simpler explanation.

8. Group Studying

Once you have effectively studied solo, it is a smart decision to join a study group. Everyone has different notes taken from class or different ways of explaining concepts. This way you can join the study group prepared but still have room to learn more. Also, it has been proven that communicating the concepts helps you retain the material more efficiently (6). Think about it. Don’t you remember all the little things that your best friend tells you at lunch? Well, it’s because you are both talking about it; this same concept can be applied to studying. Also, when you are in groups, studies show that when someone is presenting a concept, the other group members typically look down at their notes so they are not only hearing the concepts but reinforcing them by also reading, thus forming stronger connections (6).

9. Review Your Notes Before you Go to Bed

Going to sleep shortly after studying has proven to help improve your memory and retain the material better. This idea is enforced based on a study in which subjects were asked to learn new material versus reiterating material that was common knowledge. The subjects who went to sleep right after reviewing the new material, retained the information significantly better than those who didn’t go to bed right after (7). With that said, you should always go over the new material that you learned that day before bed if you don’t want to spend the next day cramming before an exam!

10. Make the Material Your Own

Sometimes, when learning difficult concepts, the way in which the professor teaches the material can make the concepts even more challenging. So, when it comes time to studying, the concepts just look like a ton of words put into complex sentences without any significant meaning, because you cannot comprehend them. An easy solution to this found by the University of Texas was to rephrase the concepts that you read into your own words. You will be more likely to remember the meanings if they are phrased in your own language. If you don’t understand something, search for the concept on Google and write down the material in your own words. Pretty soon connections will be made and you finally conquered what seemed impossible before!



1.     http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970204644504576653004073453880

2.     http://www.housing.ucsc.edu/dining/pdf/exam-time.pdf

3.     http://scs.tamu.edu/?q=node/74

4.     http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/09/taking-breaks-found-to-improve-attention/23329.html

5.     http://www4.semo.edu/gjohnson/study%20tips/study_tips.htm

6.     http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/5642.aspx

7.     http://lifehacker.com/5896513/study-before-bed-for-significantly-better-retention