By JUSTINE HAARBERG
With finals just around the corner, it is important to study for your exams without overwhelming yourself. The trick to retaining all of the material you are learning is not in the time you spend studying, but how you study.
The first step to studying more effectively is figuring out how you study best, time-wise. Do you get more out of studying in small increments of time, or studying for longer study sessions? If you prefer studying in shorter chunks of time, be sure to make up for the short time by doing this a few times a week, or even a few times a day. If you prefer studying for a couple hours at a time, remember to take five minute breaks about every half hour. The primary and recency effects show that you are more attentive at the beginning and end when learning. By taking more breaks, your brain is more alert every time you resume studying or are about to take another break.
Next, focus on eliminating distractions. Put your phone in another room or a drawer that you can’t reach, so you are not tempted to grab it every ten minutes. Overall, this will give you more quality studying time by getting rid of those “quick” phone breaks that usually turn into not-so-quick breaks. Have an organized study space and don’t bring anything that you don’t need that may draw your attention away from your work. These distractions include electronics, the internet, friends, and family. Good study spaces include a quiet spot in your house, a coffee shop, or the library. By getting rid of distractions, you will get through your studying more quickly.
In order to improve your memory, take time to quiz yourself with flashcards, quizzes, and practice exams. Taking a practice test will help you retain the information better than just rereading the information over and over. Or, instead of taking a practice quiz or test, you can quiz yourself as you go through your notes. Another way to get information to stick is by making acronyms, songs, or phrases that will help you remember a list of things you need to have memorized. This is a technique that is successful in making it easier to retain more information- but only if the acronym, song, or other memory trick isn’t too complicated. Teaching someone else the concept you are learning also helps you absorb more information. In a study published in the journal Memory and Cognition tested two groups or students on how well they were able to retain the material they learned. One group was told they had to take a test on a passage they read, and the other group had to prepare to teach the passage to another student. Both groups ended up just taking the test, and the group that prepared to teach the passage scored better. Instead of just getting ready for a test, these students “engaged in more effective approaches to learning”.
Lastly, have a positive mindset when studying. Instead of telling yourself that you are going to fail this test, tell yourself that you are going to ace it. Having a negative attitude towards your exams is only going to leave you emotionally distracted. Although you should be dedicated toward doing well on your tests, it is important to remember that a test doesn’t define you and there is more to life than an assessment.