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It’s Exam Season; Let’s Get Organized!

Stressed about your first midterm season? Or terrified of last year's stress coming back? Don’t panic, with just a few simple steps you can study for your exams with a level head and a clear workplace to really get the most out of your study hours.

How to prepare: 

It's very difficult to study effectively if you haven't organized yourself before sitting down to focus. In order to give your full undivided attention to the work you're about to do, you should clear out everything else that's causing you stress or that may be in the back of your mind.

Firstly, make a schedule, and stick to it! I used to always make to-do lists, but this year I realized having my to-do list was more stressful than not having one at all! When you're struggling to get a concept and you look at your list and see you have twelve other things to do before the night is up, how could you not get stressed?

Making a schedule with specific times devoted to each chapter, concept, or task, in general, will help you to see that it is possible to fit everything in during the day. And if it doesn’t? Then you need to start making choices, ask yourself what's important, what do you need to spend the most time on, what can be sacrificed? Allowing yourself to think about the material and what you need to get done before actually studying will help you to be motivated and focused when you actually sit down to start work. Second, find a location where you are going to be productive.

Think ahead, are you going to want a whiteboard to work out problems? Are you going to want a private room so you can talk through stuff with a group? Are you going to want to study with a group? All these things require planning beforehand! Reserve your room, make a meeting time and place review before you meet with your group, so you don't have to waste time day of figuring all of this out. Finally, clear your schedule of any non-studying things you have to do (to the best you can). Run your errands, clean your room, do your laundry, call your mom, do everything before you start studying, so it's not looming over you while you work. I know doing all of this before you even start to work may seem like overkill, but in the end, it will help you to be more focused and organized when you actually sit down to do the work.

What to do when you're studying: 

When you actually start to study, looking at an entire class and thinking to yourself, well I have 7 chapters to review and 7 hours to do it can be overwhelming. Where do you start? How do you prioritize? Interestingly, professors usually teach things in a certain order for a specific reason.

Generally speaking, each topic can help you lay a basic foundation for the next chapter. So, why change it up? Work logically, do things in order and let the resources your professors give you to help you follow through what they did. When you're studying, remember to take breaks! Do something else with your mind, get some fresh air, have some human interaction! Burying your head in the library for 10 hours may make you think you’re being productive but sooner or later you will start to lose focus and drive yourself crazy. Anticipate that!

Block out time for food, friends, and exercise to help you have the most productive hours. Speaking of food, do not forget to eat! Make sure you have plenty of snacks, water, and coffee to help fuel your brain. Obviously, you are stressed so a few cheat snacks are inevitable, but also make sure you're putting good food in your body to help sustain you for a long period of time.

What to do the night before:

Getting a good night of sleep is important any night, but especially nights before big tests. Giving your body a good 8 hours will ensure your brain has enough time to properly store all the information you stuffed in your feed throughout the day. If you spend 20 hours packing stuff in there but only get 4 hours of sleep, you’re only going to retain a fraction of what you spent all day looking over, and in the end, is that really worth it? If you’re going to be productive and do some good studying, give yourself the best possible conditions to retain that knowledge! Get good sleep and a lot of it. Look over your notes fully one time before you go to sleep and once right when you wake up. This little sandwich trick is super helpful for concepts you may feel shakier on. Seeing them right before you go to bed will keep them fresh in your mind, and waking up for a quick look is more of a mental thing, but it really helps convince yourself that your comfortable and familiar with the material.

Whew, you made it to the actual exam! Stress levels are probably high right now but just think you are almost done. You've made it through the bulk of the work, and now is the worst part, but in two hours all the stress will be done! Let all that hard work pay off! Stay calm, work effectively and kick butt!

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Gabby Hendren is a sophomore a Boston University studying neuroscience. Gabby loves to dance, do yoga, and explore Boston!
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