Study Tactics to Help You Succeed This Exam Season

Studying is a skill that can be difficult to master. We may have completed a good portion of our degrees already, but do we know what study techniques are the most effective for us? This exam season is a great time to try out new study tactics to see what helps you retain the most information. Here are some techniques that will help you get the most out of exam season:  

1. Print your notes

When studying off of material from your classes, consider printing them out! Tablets and other learning devices are convenient and portable but research suggests that traditional print materials are more effective when studying. While interactive habits such as scrolling, clicking, and pointing enhance the learning experience, more than 90% of students have said they prefer a print copy of a textbook over an e-textbook.

2. Study in an appropriate setting – same time and place, every day

Being surrounded by the right setting will help you buckle down and get to work. The place where you choose to study should be quiet and removed from distractions. Over time, studying in the same location will help you concentrate better and get more work done. The effectiveness of your study is deeply rooted in psychology. For example, your brain may associate your kitchen table with eating or your bed with sleeping. Choose a separate location and deem it your study location to improve your concentration

3. Make use of flashcards

Flash cards are a useful tool for drilling facts. Study cards can be used to  write important terms on the front and the definition on the back. Such a small, handy study tool can be carried with you at all times. During finals season, you can use study cards during “dead time,” such as while waiting at the doctor’s office or riding the bus. To kick your study habits up a notch, try posting the terms on the wall and compete with yourself for the best time score as you recite the definitions.  

4. Organization is key

Researchers have always found there is a direct relationship between orderliness and high grades. To succeed, you need to know where your success tools are. Something small like having an exam schedule with important dates (exams, assignments due, meetings) planned throughout the busy month will help keep you on top of your game. To take it a step further, try planning your study schedule every morning  and make sure that you stick to it. Organize your binder to ensure you know where to find each week’s notes, as a well-kept notebook is a part of good time management.  

5. Listen to music

Many experts find that an individual’s ability to concentrate during silence or when listening to music is dependent on their personal preference. However, there are certain genres of music that especially help the student’s brain engage in paying attention and making predictions. Playlists that include eighteenth-century composers are thought to activate the brain and positively change your outlook when studying.  

6. Exercise, exercise, exercise

The fields of health, fitness, and psychology have all established the positive impact exercise has on your brain. Even after a short workout, your brainpower is boosted as the body pumps oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Dr. Douglas B. McKeag has found studying after a workout enhances your alertness and allows you to be more open to learning new information.

7. Practice makes perfect

When studying for finals, it’s crucial to crack open a few past exams once you’ve finished covering the content. Take advantage of professors who make old exams available to get a sense of their testing style and to become familiar with how you should recall the material on the day of your exam. A 2011 study found that students who tested themselves with practice tests after learning retained more than 50% more of the information a week later than their peers who did not take a practice test.