By Jessica Thiefels
Whether it’s midterm exams or finals, the occasion is often marked by all-nighters in the library, stress-inducing deadlines, and eating way too much pizza because it just seems logical in the moment.
If you want to reduce this mental pressure and boost your GPA in the process, channel your nerves into these pointers for ensured success on all upcoming exams.
1) Minimize the Use of Reference Materials
If you automatically skim your lecture notes or search Google for the answer to each review question, instead of trusting your own knowledge and retention, you won’t be able to memorize the necessary information long-term.
Rather than defaulting to those resources, complete the entire study guide with no outside assistance first, then cross-reference each answer with your textbook. This strategy will boost confidence in your aptitude for learning, while helping you remember and comprehend the material much more effectively.
2) Simulate a Testing Environment at Home
The temptation to flip on your favorite TV show or have Pandora humming in the background while you cram through a study session might sound appealing, but your cognitive function will decrease with noise or sensory interference.
The most effective method of preparation is to recreate the conditions you’ll experience during the actual exam. Students perform higher academically when seated in a desk and surrounded by minimal distractions—just like in the classroom, according to USA Test Prep.
3) Write Keywords and Bullet Points
Transferring information from the region of your brain that engages listening to the region that controls movement forms a link between linguistic and kinesthetic retention. When you write what you’ve heard during a lecture or read from a textbook, that physical action solidifies those facts in your memory.
Keep index cards accessible during an exam review and take notes on points worth remembering. This underscores the crucial data, so you don’t waste time studying irrelevant or extraneous details.
4) Develop a System to Jog Your Memory
When the material becomes applicable or meaningful to you outside an academic context, you’re more prone to find it thought-provoking, and therefore, easier to recall. With that in mind, make your designated study time feel like a game to harness your creativity, rather than a chore to deplete your energy by coming up with rhymes, patterns or mnemonic devices. This is much more fun and effective than just scanning page after page of tedious facts which don’t peak your interest and therefore solidify in your mind.
5) Repeat the Information Aloud to Yourself
If you’re an auditory learner, this tactic will prove effective, in particular, because it activates both your verbal and phonic faculties at the same time. This catches your attention and prevents the mind from wandering.
Find a quiet area and talk yourself through everything you’ll need to know until it starts coming right off your tongue. This process of oral recitation is among the most surefire methods for promoting rapid recall because the information will echo in the forefront of your brain like a broken record—which is great, even if it is annoying at the time.
Studying is the worst, no matter how you look at it. The only thing that makes it better is finding a study tactic that helps you ace your exam, and then falling back on that every time. Give these tips a try and see if you do better than last semester.
Jessica Thiefels is the editor of Whooo’s Reading and an education blogger, who’s been featured on such as PBS, TeachHub and CollegeRaptor and more. She’s been out of college longer than she’d like to admit, but still uses tricks like these to stay sharp in her career. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 for more tips, tricks and ideas.