Are you struggling to stay focused on studying? Do you find yourself procrastinating too often? That's a sure sign that finals week is coming up and the idea of summer being just around the corner is too much to handle. From one procratinator to another, I'm going to let you guys in on a secret list of things I do to help me prepare better for finals. Hopefully you all will find this list as helpful as I did. Here goes!
Location, location, location. Where you study is a crucial first step in better preparing for finals. If you know your room beckons for you to nap or watch T.V., then don't study there. You'll have a harder time remembering what you studied, or even begin studying, if you're distracted by your unkempt room or that show you love so much. If you're saying, "but I can't study in the library, either, because I'm distracted by all the other people there," don't worry, there are other great places to study. Take your headphones with you to a coffee shop or a secluded place in the park (or on campus) and plug yourself into some soft, instramental music to drown out the outside noise without distracting you with lyrics. If you have a friend who is also studying, try studying together. Make a pact to prevent each other from surfing addicting social media sites or random things on Google. This will keep you motivated to get your work done and you will be less likely to goof off if you know your friend is keeping you accountable.
Try something new. If your brain is getting tired of studying Spanish, then switch to that research paper you need to write. Trying to focus on a subject for too long can often tire your brain out and you will end up mindlessly studying because you've been focused on one thing for too long. I've found that if I start getting writers block, switching to studying another subject will let my brain reboot and I can go back to the paper after a few hours and be able to start writing again. I've noticed that repeating the same information over and over can help me remember it better, but after too long, I begin to fall asleep and my brain retains nothing that my eyes read. Coming back to that information a few hours later helps me remember the information better because I've had a chance to let what I've learned sink in, which helps my recall later during the test.
Get a group! Study groups can be a great tool, but choose your groups carefully. If you know people who are more interested in procrastinating at every possible chance than studying, then they are not who you want in your study group. You don't want someone who will be talking the whole time you're trying to study, because that can get annoying. Choose a group who are dedicated to staying focused and learning the material. Study groups are a great way to really ensure you know the material because you can quiz each other and often, teaching someone else the material helps it stick in your brain better. When you try to teach something, your brain has to work around the way the professor explained it so you can explain it in a way that will help someone understand it better, which makes you think about that subject twice as much as you would if you were studying by yourself.
Feed your brain! Food is fuel for your brain. Don't skip a meal because you're trying to cram. This only makes your brain sleepy and less motivated to work because it's trying to tell you that you're hungry. Bring snacks to the library or wherever you study to wake you up and keep your stomach happy. Snacks like granola bars, fruits, yogurt, or anything containing protein are great snacks to eat because they will fill you up for longer, keeping you going during those long study hours. Eat a good breakfast if you know you will study through lunch and remember to take a snack. Stopping for dinner will often be the break you need to pick you back up and refresh your brain to continue studying.
ZzzzzZzzzz. Sleep is just as important as eating. If you don't get a good night's rest, especially before the final, then you will have a harder time recalling information and staying awake during the test. Studies have shown that if you go to sleep after studying and get a full night's rest, you are more likely to remember what you learned. They have said that sleeping helps solidify what your brain obtained, moving it from short-term memory to long-term memory without losing parts along the way. Trying to overload your brain with too much information at once could potentially cause problems in recall. So sleep during the week, don't try to pull too many all-nighters, and sleep the night before your final. If you think you need those few extra hours of study time, then wake up earlier in the morning. Just make sure to give yourself enough time to rest so your brain can function at the level you need it to.
Time out! Remember to take breaks! If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed with a subject, and switching subjects doesn't help your brain, take a walk or just step back from studying for a little while. Try not to think about what you've been studying during this break. Don't veg out in front of the T.V. or in front of your computer, this will not help you in the long run. You need to keep your brain alert while taking a break from studying. Watching T.V. or surfing the web can ruin your concentration when you get back to studying. When you're doing something that doesn't require a lot of concentration, like scrolling through Facebook posts, your brain will often go into a sleep mode, which can cause procrastination. When you go for a walk, you're doing something physically, which keeps your brain awake so it can move your body, and it increases your endorphines which motivates you to keep moving. An arthritis commercial says it well, "A body at rest will stay at rest, but a body in motion will stay in motion," which is true in this case as well. If you let your brain go into sleep mode by not activating your body's natural endorphines, you could slip back into your procrastination phase, and we don't want that. Even walking to the kitchen to make yourself a snack would be a great break and then you get to eat a yummy snack while you continue to study.
Quiz time. After you feel comfortable with the material, it's obviously time to quiz yourself, or let a friend quiz you. You will never know if you truely know the material unless you take away the answers in front of you and try to remember them yourself. Try to study in the style the exam will be in. If you know certain sections will be multiple choice, then have a friend create a mock exam for you to take and see how well you do. Or try writing out essay questions to see how well you can explain the answer to the question. You will feel much more prepared when you practice the style of the exam because you know what to expect.
Planning is important. Staying organized is crucial for exam week. No time can be wasted or misused. Lay out a schedule of all your exams. Then go backward, working your way to the present, and make a study schedule based on when the exams are. If you know you need to study one subject more than another, make that a priority in your scheduling. Your schedule doesn't have to be hourly, but make sure you leave yourself enough time to efficiently study for everything you need to. Try scheduling two subjects a day so you have time to switch it up if you need to, maybe one subject could be more important than the other so you don't feel guilty when you stop studying one for the other. Set yourself page limits to reach before switching to another subject, or vice versa, a page limit for how long your break can be from that other subject. A planner or large desk calendar helps during this stage. If you don't have one, print one out. Make a list of the days you have to study and what you plan to study for each day. Do what you feel will help you best.
Priorities! You will have other commitments during this time because we don't want to stop our life for the sake of exams. You do have priorities, so set them early. If your sorority sisters are going to the movies on a night you need to study for history, don't blow off history so you can go to the movies. This is a time for you to choose what you need to do versus what you want to do. You NEED to do well on your exams even though you WANT to see Frozen for the third time. Don't lie to yourself, either. Thinking that you know the material "well enough" is not an excuse to watch Supernatural because it came on T.V. Prioritize these last few weeks because you will have all summer to watch as much Supernatural and Frozen that you want.
Game on! My favorite thing to do is make studying a game. At the beginning of your preparations for finals week, set up a game that has rewards, or power-ups, and consequences for how well you do at studying. For example, if you learn a new definition, or reach that page goal, you will reward yourself with something that will motivate you to continue, but not throw you off track. (This can't be "watch an entire season of Doctor Who" or "Stop studying for the day" as these rewards are counterproductive and not motivational at all). Reward yourself with stopping for lunch, or taking a walk, or sitting outside, etc. And when you get an answer wrong, or fail to reach your goal, you will lose a life which can mean anything from adding another definition to your list or adding more pages to your goal. This will hopefully motivate you to reach your goals and retain the information better in hopes you can take a break instead of adding more studying to your pile.
Good luck, readers! I know you'll do great this finals week.