So picture this: Your first round of exams is coming up and you have absolutely no idea how to prepare for them. After a quiz or two in your gen-ed Principles of Biology class, it has become crystal clear that bio is not your forté, and the grade from your last history quiz is evidence enough that you do not know as much about ancient Roman battles and emperors as you thought you did. And now you’re panicking because of the impending doom of exams. I bet many of you reading this can relate to these feelings. Sometimes exams can make you feel like you got hit by a truck, but it doesn’t have to be that way!
When I was a freshman, my study habits looked like reading the same things over and over, going through flashcards for hours, staying in one subject for an enormous amount of time, or cramming. These study strategies, however, are not the best, and I can tell you from experience that there are much more effective, and often less time-consuming, methods of getting the necessary material to stick in our brains. Now, without further ado, here are some pointers that will hopefully help you stress less and study better.
Do not cram
Some people like to wait until the test is right around the corner to hit the study grind so that the material is fresh in their minds on the big day, hence the art of cramming. Cramming is not a great idea, to put it simply. Too much all at once can actually take you backward and have the opposite effect that you intended; you’re taking on more than you can handle. By flooding your brain with so much information, you might recall less while actually taking the test because you tried to do too much, too fast.
Personally, the times that I’ve crammed have only led me to temporarily memorize material, not actually learn it. Instead of waiting until right before the test so that you have no other option but to live in a study room for the day and pressure-study, spread it out. Start studying early; don’t wait to study because you want it to be fresh in your mind. Give yourself time to gradually build and solidify your knowledge on a given subject so that you understand it. You’ll do yourself a favor if you avoid trying to drink water from a fire hose; it’s too much all at once. Turn down the pressure, and don’t cram.
Write out definitions before you read a chapter
College comes with a huge amount of reading, and I’ve really grown to love reading, but if I’m being completely transparent here, it is not uncommon for me to read a page or two (or six) and then realize I have no idea what on earth I just read. Because there is so much reading to be done and sometimes it’s difficult to retain or understand, we need ways to help it stick. One thing that’s wicked helpful for me is going through the chapter before I read it and writing all bold or italicized terms and their definitions in a notebook – writing helps with memory. That way when I do read the chapter, I’m already familiar with the pieces, and it’s just about putting them together. This makes a big difference in actually understanding what I read and enables me to read a little faster too! Incredible.
Be careful not to overdo it
More is better when it comes to studying, right? Nope. Not necessarily. You definitely do want to study a lot when you’ve got an exam on the horizon, but doing too much just makes your brain go to mush. Be nice to your brain and give it a break. Focus on the intensity of your studying more than the amount of hours you spend doing it. It might be exhilarating when you go through your flashcards and get them all right, and that might make you want to run through them again, but be careful not to overdo it; that might be a good point to take a break. You don’t want the material to get jumbled, and you certainly do not want your brain to go to mush.
Go to bed at a reasonable hour
I’m preaching to myself on this one, as my friends will attest to the fact that I do not have a respectable sleep schedule, to say the least. I’m a late to bed, early to rise kind of gal. But I will say, though, that there is a noticeable difference when I give myself time to sleep (imagine that, right?). Here’s a fun fact for ya: Sleep is crucial for memory and plays a key part in learning new information. So, if it’s late and you have a class in the morning, even if you want to keep studying, it will probably do you more good to hit the hay. True, if you go to bed, you might miss out on studying a couple things. But if you don’t go to sleep (and get a good amount of hours, not just three or four, my fellow night owls), you are in danger of forgetting what you have already studied.
Pray about it
Last, but certainly not least: Pray about it. Ephesians 6:18 reminds us to go before our King with all kinds of requests and on all occasions. He cares about the stress you’re feeling because of exams, He cares about the hours you’re putting in to prep, He cares about how you’re doing in your classes. It is a good and gracious gift to be able to go school and learn (even when it involves painstaking hours of studying) in an environment that encourages excellence and integrity and pushes us to pursue God in whatever we do. Part of stewarding that gift well is looking to Him for guidance through it and asking Him for help in it.
When it comes to study strategies, at the end of the day it’s all about what works best for you; I hope that you give these a try and that they prove to be beneficial! Exams don’t have to equal doom for your GPA. Plan ahead, take your time studying, and you’ll make it through. You can do it, man. I believe in ya.
Majoring in Advocacy Communications, Class of 2023
Favorite Place to Be: Outdoors
Go to Rinnova order: Either an Iced Boston or ‘Promised Land’
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