With the exam season in full effect, we thought this would be the perfect time to write about the best way to study for exams, whether you’re in high school or college/university.
This may seem like a pretty boring topic, but trust us, we will make it worthwhile!
From the first day of class, professors immediately inform students about their midterms and exams.
Details like when it is, what will be covered, and how much it’s worth are spilled like hot gossip and us students are left in fear of how to prepare.
Trust us, we know what it’s like. It seems as though the presence of exams is constantly lurking… pressuring us to study to get the grades we need. And so, we frantically study by cramming in as much as we can.
You know, writing down endless information, making acronyms for lists, reading the same textbook pages over and over again, highlighting key words.
Or on the flip side, we desperately attempt to be productive and make good use of our time but we feel unmotivated and discouraged.
Then, the exam comes rolling around and you can’t remember anything. Or better yet, what you do retain and spent hours reviewing isn’t even covered on the exam.
Sound like you?
Well, after reading this guide, you will know the best tips and tricks to study for exams. We promise that following these tips will improve your grades and make studying a more enjoyable experience.
We are going to dive right into the five groundbreaking study tips that guarantee a constructive study session and academic success! Everyone should know and use these!
- The importance of an effective study space
- Using visual aids
- Snacking on brain foods
- Organizing your time and establishing priorities
- This last one is a secret (good things come to those who wait… or read)
Work Environment is EVERYTHING + MORE!
The Setting Influences Your Productivity
The first tip to a successful and productive study session is choosing the right setting. As students, we are trained to only focus on course content when studying for an exam.
This leads us to believe that studying in our dark, barely lit room at 2:30AM is constructive as long as we stay on task. Wrong. The setting you choose to work in plays a significant role in your productivity and the amount of information you retain.
There are many characteristics of a positive work environment, the first being lighting.
Believe it or not, a workspace that has natural light fuels us to accomplish more and ultimately acts as an agent for developing new perspectives on what you are learning. Ultimately, this will enhance your understanding of course material.
The science behind it is that light influences the amount of melatonin we produce, which indirectly impacts our level of alertness. This heightens our concentration and energy level, allowing us to stay on task and accomplish more.
So, choosing a workspace that has many windows or even one window that is abundant in natural light will directly improve your concentration.
Whether this is in your bedroom, living room, or library, as long as natural light is seeping in you will be more mentally engaged with your work.
And there’s more! We have found that studying next to or near a window provides a source of relief during the stressful and tiring process of memorizing and learning tons of information.
Before you think we are delusional, consider this. How often do you stare at green space during a test, an essay, or when trying to wrap your head around extensive lecture notes?
Absentmindedly looking out the window and pondering a topic is done unconsciously as a means of coping with our stress – and it works!
Having a window to look out of is a space for our mind to drift so we can have clarity and opportunities. When we finally “snap out of it”, we resume our studies with a clearer and less tense mindset.
So, we highly suggest you choose a study space that allows you to look outside the window to a preferably green environment. Looking at nature as opposed to buildings is more peaceful and mentally rewarding and offers the best results when studying.
Maybe you will even experience an epiphany moment!
Where NOT to Work
Next is where you specifically chose to work, so your actual work space. Right off the bat, avoid studying on your bed! Although it may seem tempting, working on your bed does not allow you to separate your school work from home.
Your bed is the very same space where the completion of sleeping, one of the most relaxing and really, most unproductive of tasks occurs.
Why would you want to use that same space to accomplish the goal of trying to learn the complex components of a course? Trust us, it’s not the place to do so…despite how comfortable and cozy it is.
Ultimately, the negatives of doing so is correlated to your mental state as you are more inclined to become lazy as it is literally a place designed to do just that!
About That Golden Workspace…
Instead of working from your bed, create a desk space or find a study space that separates school work from your personal life. Having a workspace designed for productivity, like a desk, will allow you to stay on task and not sink into other temptations.
If you are unable to get a desk, clearing a space on your dining room table is a functional substitution for a desk. Just avoid working on “lazy” areas like a bed or couch!
So, get a designated workspace going! Once you find a space that you are productive in – whether that is at your desk at home, a coffee shop, or library – it’s a good idea to be consistent and make that your go-to for studying.
This allows you to get more work done because you associate the environment with success and progress. And hey, if you feel like a certain workspace is not doing it for you, change it up!
A change of scenery is equally as great as it opposingly provides us with a blank slate of sorts to start the process of studying with a fresh attitude.
A workspace that optimizes your productivity varies for each individual and depends on your personal preferences.
As mentioned, our personal favorites are studying at a coffee shop, at a library, at an on-campus study area or at home at our desk or dining room table.
We also think that the quieter the area is the better so you stay focused. There is nothing more aggravating than trying to memorize something and not being able to concentrate due to excessive loud noise.
Again, this depends on the person as some can tune it out!
Finally, being in an environment with other productive people can make a huge difference. Independent studying can be a bit exhausting and endless.
It relies on self determination to push through and continue to work.
Looking up to see others focused is extremely motivating. It encourages us to stay on track and cease all distractions. This is just what we need to ace the exam!
Visual Aids Are Your Best Friend Forever!
Does studying solo make you feeling lonely during exam season? Well guess what? Visuals are your new best friend… and they come in millions of different sizes, shapes, and colours. You really can’t go wrong with these!
Using visual aids while studying is a fool-proof, guaranteed way to improve your memory and retention of course content.
They make studying more enjoyable and provide you with new ways of learning information rather than your typical lengthy exam review.
There are a couple of different aids you can create either online or by drawing out…
- Charts: While these might not be the most interesting of the potential visual aids, they are a great practice for sorting and comparing different topics. You can create charts in the form of a venn-diagram or a simple table and convert that to graphs if you desire.
- Use of Symbols and Drawings: Although it may seem odd, using symbols or drawing images which represent something you need to remember actually improves the degree in which you retain that information. Breaking down a definition into symbols or literally even a drawing is a lot easier to remember than a string of words. An image is way more likely to stick in our head!
- Highlighting and Colour Coding: This visual indicator of important information is especially helpful. Dividing the colours you use, say pink for main topics/key terms, orange for sub terms and yellow for general information, easily pinpoints the level of importance for each. When reading through your notes, you can then easily identify information and words as it pops.
They key to using visuals right though is doing all of it FIRST. The first time you sit down to study for an exam is when all your chart-making, highlighting and use of symbols should occur.
Doing all of this first sets you up with powerful notes, so all you have to do next is read, learn and memorize instead of doing all at the same time.
Essentially, these visual aids should compliment your studying and retention of the information.
This is the most beneficial as it encourages you to just focus and learn the information you perfectly laid out for yourself instead of trying to do both at the same time!
Brain Foods… Woah! The Power of Healthy Exam Snacks
Did you know that the foods you consume can have a direct impact on your performance during exams?
Let’s learn a little bit about the science behind how food affects your brain. As you know, the brain is one of the most complex and incredible features of the human body.
It processes information at incredible speeds and allows you to complete your everyday tasks. Like a car or plane, the brain also requires fuel to serve its purpose. It obtains this fuel directly from the foods you choose to consume.
However, there are major differences in consuming sugary foods vs. healthier snacks.
Without the right kind of fuel, you may experience mood swings, low energy levels, poor sleep quality, weaker memory retention, difficulties with problem-solving… okay, you get the point!
Fortunately, we have the perfect set of healthy exam snacks that will fuel your brain to victory… or just better grades, but victory sounds more thrilling!
Let’s begin with proteins! Although there are a number of high quality food sources that protein comes from, most of them are very time-consuming to prepare.
I’m referring to your typical household staples such as meat, eggs, fish, dairy, and soy products. When it’s exam season, time is essential (as you’ll find out in the next section).
Do not fear because there are some great tasting snacks you can consume. Ever heard of trail mix? It’s one of our favourite snacks and can be easily purchased at any grocery store.
It is also a mess-free snack that you can munch on whenever you want. Now how about greek yogurt? Veggies and hummus? Almonds? Natural protein bars? We told you there were options.
Next is a short, but crucial component… Omega-3! These are vital for improving brain functionality and increasing productivity while studying. You can get your daily dose of Omega-3’s from fish oils, flax seeds, walnuts, edamame, and even seaweed – we promise it tastes better than it sounds!
Now it’s time for the fun part. Dark chocolate, fresh or dried fruits, coconut clusters, chia pudding, oatmeal cookies. All of these snacks will not only power your brain, but also satisfy your sweet cravings before exams.
Wait! I almost forgot one of the most important parts… WATER! Yes, I know water is definitely not a food or snack, but your brain is actually around 73% water. SO MAKE SURE YOU DRINK LOTS OF IT!
Time Management… We Will Attempt to Make This Section Exciting!
STOP! Wait, not literally… keep reading! But, stop frantically racing against the clock! No really, racing against the clock to cram in as much information as you can before an exam is not the way to go.
Most students are guilty of seeing time as their enemy BUT time can actually work in your favour when it comes to studying (shocker)! However, this only occurs when you take the right approaches.
Start your review or preparation in advance! You have most likely been told to do this a number of times but fail to actually listen and do it.
Goals such as when to finish learning each topic/lecture will allow you to specifically dedicate your time to each important aspect of the course material.
If you set goals for each component of the course that needs to be learned, you will have a full schedule-like list of goals to follow.
From experience, having a tangible list and timestamps of what needs to be completed encourages us to work harder and better.
Doing this right before you begin the study process is a great way to start off on the right foot as you are being productive and efficient!
Translating your thoughts and plans of what needs to be tackled in a straightforward way also helps keep the process less muddled and more organized.
Identifying your priorities is also a key factor for success. It is important that you recognize your weaknesses so you are aware of what you need to spend more time studying.
Doing so will optimize your time and prepare you to be well rounded in all areas of the exam.
Have you ever been reading over your notes when your ringer goes off? Be honest… we know this has definitely happened to all of you.
Some of you may even have the urge to constantly check your phone without the ringer or vibration prompting you to do so.
This is a common issue that most students in today’s technologically advanced, modern society.
Numerous studies have shown that your devices can severely decrease your productivity and reduce your attention span.
Well how are you going to accomplish anything if this keeps happening to you?
Honestly, chances are you won’t. An easy solution to this problem is to simply remove the distractions altogether. Turn your phone off completely, disconnect from wifi, or even place it in another room.
This will ensure that you are minimizing the distractions and using your time effectively. Even though you are trying to stay focused, remember that it is completely okay to take frequent but short breaks to mindlessly scroll through instagram or reply to your snaps.
Just do not, and I repeat, DO NOT turn your ten minute break into an hour long one. Taking short breaks allows your brain to relax for a few minutes before you get back on track.
And don’t forget your healthy snacks for break time!
We Hate to Be Those People. But Make Studying FUN! It’s Possible!
Unfortunately, the pressure of doing well on exams makes studying more of an exhaustive and stressful experience. But, you can make it fun!
Doing simple things like playing concentration / atmospheric music that matches your personal preference will increase your concentration and limit distractions while also providing some enjoyment.
In the end, just remember that an exam does not define you! There are so many wonderful characteristics and traits that we all possess and a grade on an exam does not effectively portray these important factors.
Using this guide will ensure that you are doing the best you can, and that’s really all that matters.
Hopefully this post has provided you with some value and you can implement all, or even a few of our tips.
Good luck on your all future exams and please let us know if you have any other tips we didn’t cover in the comment section below!
Happy studying and you are going to do amazing!