By Oanhie “Shinsen” Pham, Staff writer & Copy editor

Regardless of if you’re an undergraduate or graduate, exams are lurking around the corner. So how do you prepare for the inevitable?

This article will highlight some tips to help you improve the way you study. They won’t guarantee an A on an exam, because what works for some students may not work for others. However, finding an effective way for you to study is important so you don’t end up procrastinating up until the last few hours and don’t know where to start.
What is your daily schedule like? If you start studying well before you need to, you won’t have to study as much info each time. It’s also good practice to study as soon as possible (some might study even before the start of the semester!), so give yourself time to study.

When are you most productive? Use that time to study since you’re more focused and alert. For example, if you prefer being in natural light while you study, study early in the day when the sun’s coming up. If you like to study when all are asleep and not awake to distract you, study early in the morning or at night. If you’re busy the whole day and don’t have three-hour blocks of free time, but have 30-minute free periods here and there, use that time to quickly glance over an upcoming chapter or  look at notes you’ve taken that day.

Find a good place to study. Do you prefer a busy environment or a peaceful one? Picking out where to study is important because if you get too distracted with too many people around, you won’t have productive studying time. Or if it’s too quiet, you might become distracted at how boring your environment is and end up doing something else.

Studying at home is convenient, but can also be a distraction because it’s too convenient.

“I can’t study in my room because it makes me want to fall asleep,” said Sarah “Chíc” Nguyen, from the University of West Florida. Nguyen said the kitchen doesn’t help either, because it draws her attention away from her studies and more on the food.

If you find yourself getting up from studying and doing something else in your house, you might want to find a better place to study. Try your local library or your school library. Since others around you tend to be quiet, you’ll be encouraged to remain quiet as well.

You need to decide if you want to study alone or with others. If it helps that a friend studying the same subject is with you, study together. That way, you can answer each other’s questions.

Consuello “Aislinn” Owens, from Loyola University Chicago, studies with someone who is serious about the class that she won’t end up goofing around with. If having people study with you is a distraction, don’t do it. You might end up studying only at the very end, when you realize how much time was wasted. Studying with others will also allow you to encourage each other to study better.

Study guide:
Some students are fortunate to get a study guide from their professors. There has to be a reason why your professor gave you a guide. It’s because he or she wants you to ace that exam, right? If you get one, utilize it! Why? Imagine if the guide was a close replica of the actual exam. You will regret not filling out those blank spaces and bubbling in those answers on the guide. However, if you do not receive a study guide from your professor, it’s all right. You can make your own.

If you have been taking down notes in class, these will help you make a study guide. Compare the reading in your textbook (if there is one) to your notes. If there is important information from the textbook that was not said in class, you should write/type them in your notes. Don’t forget examples given. Also, if it helps, put down the page number the info was given. That way, you can always go to that page to verify info.

“I like to go through all my notes on my laptop,” said Gina “Elevate” Lawson, from Georgia State University. “Print them out and keep re-reading them and take notes on my notes to help me remember them.”

Stella “Naru” Kim, from the University of Georgia, puts everything in her own words and said it makes her own assessment of the material a lot better when she translates it for herself.

For students like Lawson and Kim, a highlighter becomes their best friend during studying. Use highlighters or colored pens in your notes to help you remember which terms are more important, etc.  Also, make note cards or flashcards of important terms, definitions and examples.

“My three highlighters are yellow, pink and orange,” Kim said. “Each one of them stands for different types of information.”

Honey “Joie” Nguyen, from University of West Florida, highlights her note cards because if there are colorful things around, it makes her happier and makes her want to study more. It also makes the material seem more interesting, she said.

Set up some goals to help encourage you to study. It doesn’t have to ambitious tasks such as “Read 10 chapters in three hours,” but make small goals. If you want to study nonstop for two hours, set a timer for two hours and study without any distractions until time is up.

“I’ll usually put aside small goals of a certain amount of chapters per day while also leaving enough room to either do more or less,” Kim said.

If you have sticky notepads, write goals on them. Let’s say you want to read at least a chapter of 20 pages. Split the chapter in half by making a note with “Halfway through!” sticking out of the page. Next, go to the end of the chapter and stick “DONE!” to the last page. Make sure the notes stick out so you can see them as you read the chapter.

It’s OK to do some hardcore studying, but remember to take breaks. Rest your eyes, rest your brain. It can be a five-minute break if you don’t want to get too distracted away from studying. Just don’t end up doing the opposite: Studying for five minutes and taking two-hour breaks.

Set your timer for two hours (or however long you want to study for). When time is up, finish up writing or reading the last sentence/paragraph. Get up from where you are and stretch out your arms and legs. Drink some water or eat a light snack if you want. Resume studying after a short break so you don’t forget what you’re studying for.

Don’t eat a full meal while studying. Being full might become a distraction and can cause sleepiness. Unless you become hungry, eat before you begin studying or wait until you’re done.

Bring some brain-boosting, memory-improving snacks with you. How about a small container of celery and carrot sticks? Fruits like grapes, slices of oranges and bananas are good to have. Or gummy fruit snacks enriched with vitamin C.

Michelle “Calliope” Liu, from University of Central Florida, advises to go for popcorn, a light-calorie snack. Go light on the salt and skip the butter, she said.

Some like music to help them concentrate, but it’s considered a distraction to others.

Amanda “Adira” Thai, from Loyola University Chicago, said she prefers a silent environment to study in, which includes no music and a cell phone that’s on silent mode. Christina “Cloud 9” Aquino, from University of Central Florida, agrees.

“When you study and your brain is processing information, it processes with the music you are listening to,” Aquino said, recalling what she learned in a previous course. “When you’re taking the test, it’s harder to remember since it’s dead silent and your brain remembers the information with music.”

Stella Kim said she needs complete silence if she’s studying for an actual exam, but prefers background noise such as the television or music to help her think when writing essays.

These are just some tips to help you get started on your studying. You have to have the will to actually study in order to do well. Get plenty of rest before you wake up for your exam. Eat breakfast if you have time. If you studied well, had some rest AND have some time left before your actual exam, take a minute to reread your notes and important pages in your textbook. It’ll refresh your memory and give you more confidence.

However, if you find yourself procrastinating until the day/night before the exam, use your time well. The parties and fun can wait. Your exam can’t. If you only need to read a few chapters for an exam, fully study each chapter. If you need to study your whole book, then it wouldn’t be wise to read from start to finish if you don’t have much time left. You’ll only confuse yourself with the material and will be left feeling overwhelmed and overworked. Learn the notes you do have, and use your book to fill in blanks. Try to avoidcoffee and energy drinks. Try warm herbal tea, water or a fruit smoothie instead.


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