Studying 101: How to Get the Grades You (and Your Parents) Want

We’ve all been there. It is 3:00 A.M., the night before a huge exam. You are three large coffee’s deep, you start to consider an extended blink a “quick nap,” and you can’t help but fill out an application at your local fast food restaurant because you are on the verge of just calling it quits and getting a minimum wage job instead. While studying can be extremely stressful, time consuming and frustrating, there is a way to avoid the night-before cram. Here are a few tips that I use personally with my Pre-Med workload that can lower your stress levels, your caffeine intakes, and maybe even increase your free time!

1. Start Early

You are more likely to retain information if you study more frequently rather than for long periods of time. After a lecture when you get a good chunk of information, it is a good idea to go and rewrite your notes to get a better understanding for what you went over in class. This will also prepare you for the next class you have. You will feel much more confident going into the next lecture and not be so overwhelmed when you’re given another lecture of new information. Studying everyday for 30-45 minutes is so much more effective than cramming in 6 hours of trying to teach yourself the information the night before the exam.

2. Sing it out

Why is it so easy for us to remember every word to our favorite song but we cannot remember the process of cellular respiration? That is because with that new song we are obsessed with, it has a catchy jingle and is rhythmic, which makes it fun to learn. If you take the information you want to remember and put it into a musical perspective, it will be a lot easier to remember. Repetition helps produce memory, which means that writing it down or singing the song over and over again will help create the long-lasting memory. So get your Hannah Montana on and make your own version of the bone song for whatever it is you are studying this semester.


3. Resort to instrumental

When we are getting in our study grind, we are all guilty of trying to zone out the world with our headphones. While it is good to limit our outside distractions, the music we listen to can affect the information we retain. A lot of the time, I catch myself rewriting my notes listening to my favorite playlist, and 20 minutes in I realize that I have no idea what I have been working on. I was just aimlessly writing down words without a single thought of what I was actually writing. I was just listening to the music and not paying attention to my notes at all. Instead of listening to songs where you know all the words, try listening to acoustics or instrumentals where it is just a melody backdrop to help you zone into your work. Otherwise, you will waste a whole lot of time doing what you think is proactive studying, when in reality, you are just writing to write without retaining any of the information you are writing.

4. Self before school

Despite popular belief, you cannot be successful by completely encompassing your life with schoolwork. Being fully focused on your grades and taking no breaks takes a huge toll on your mind and your body. While your academics should be a high priority, your own health, both physically and mentally, should come first. Make sure you get enough sleep. Eat breakfast in the morning, and take frequent breaks when you are studying for an exam. Spend an hour with zero distractions, just full focus on your work. Then after that hour, get up and walk around. Watch some cute puppy , get some fresh air, whatever you need to do to give your mind a rest. One of the best ways to give your mind a rest is by actually going to sleep. As a student athlete on a Pre-Med track, I understand how difficult it is to get enough sleep with a hectic schedule. A rule of thumb that I personally abide by is “nothing good happens after 2am.” With that being said, I don’t care what I am studying for or how much I have to do. If I am still doing work at two o’clock in the morning, I will put my books away and get some sleep. You need to sleep in order to retain information. Sleep deprivation will only cause you to be lackadaisical which will result in a poor performance on your exam.

5. Practice how you play

Creating an environment similar to that of which you’ll take your exam in. Laying in bed doing work with your laptop to your side and a dozen different outlines in front of you may work for you, but when it comes closer to exam time, it is best to sit at a desk with no music, no breaks and no distractions and zone in on your  work. Creating that realistic environment will help you when it comes to exam time. You are more likely able to recall information during the test if you study in a similar environment. Another small tip that may help is chewing gum. If you chew gum when you study and chew the same gum when you take the exam, your memories are enhanced by the increase in similarities. Your brain recognizes the situation and thinks that it has been there before, making you more successful with recalling of information.  

Studying for exams can be an extremely stressful process. The pressure to get good grades is at an all time high, causing us to worry more than we really need to. It is proven that we perform better when we are comfortable. If you prepare for your exams over a longer period of time, there will be no reason to stress when it comes time to perform. So look around your campus, find out which building is your library and stay a while. I promise, the building I thought I would never touch is now my favorite place on campus. So hit the books, but don’t forget to take care of yourself while you’re at it.