Haven’t we all been there? When the subjects are piling up and the chapter count seems endless, and we truly don’t know where to begin to be able to (sanely) manage the load. When we’re too stressed to start studying but the fact that we’re not studying is stressing us out. It’s a loop almost every student experience at some point in their academic careers. Our adrenaline rushes to try and keep focused, but when it’s being released for too long, it can lead to exhaustion, anxiousness, forgetfulness, and irritability.
It’s important to note that stress, like most psychological experiences, serves a purpose. If we experience too little stress as we prepare for an exam, we wouldn’t be motivated to reach our highest potential. On the other hand, an excessive amount of stress can be damaging. So, we really want to reach that sweet spot in-between. But the question is – how?
During these times, there are usually specific factors that impact our stress levels, ranging from lifestyle factors to informational needs and studying habits. It’s easy to sink into unhealthy patterns during exams season when we are caught up with getting tasks done and forget to take care of our physical health. It’s not uncommon to experience inadequate sleep and poor nutrition. As much as we would like to believe that putting our sleep and nutritional needs aside will give us enough time to get through that one last exam, it actually harms our productivity and decreases the efficiency of our overall studying time.
Here are some studying tips to help you:
1. Pick the best time to study
To start, a schedule to follow always takes away the stress of not knowing where to start and what to do next. Schedules can be created using various methods such as Google Calendar, on a piece of paper, or using a monthly/weekly planner (which can be printed from several online sources). It’s really important, both for our mental health and efficiency levels, to set SMART goals, which are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Another piece of advice I would give is to schedule days for time off, as well as extra 'free’ days in case we need further revision at any particular moment. That way you won’t panic if you slightly derail from the set schedule. Try not to completely cram up your schedule!
We often feel as though exams are an endless struggle but laying out what we need to do on a clear schedule transforms them into time-bound projects with a fixed endpoint, which can be super motivating!
Don’t forget to reward yourself after accomplishing your tasks! We all deserve a good amount of self-love after a hard day’s work and it can give us something to look forward to.
2. Cramming up?
We all feel significantly more accomplished when we read and highlight chapters from our schoolbooks, but how do we make sure we have all of the information stored long-term? Note-taking has proven to increase our concentration when studying as well as help us make connections between different topics or concepts. Note-taking, however, is not a one-size-fits-all, and to each his or her own suitable note-taking method. It’s then important to find one that you find most effective for you. It may feel boring while you do it, but will make you feel far more prepared!
3. You’re never alone!
You can never go wrong with having a good support system when going through exam season. It’s also really effective to have some support for when we need some comfort as well as to be held accountable for what we need to do. Study partners can share study schedules and be there to encourage each other to stay on track or to explain complicated topics to each other. Everything is better with a buddy!
4. ”Where am I supposed to do all that?”
We want to study in a comfortable study area, but not too comfortable (to avoid any zZzZ…). A comfy desk chair, a desk of suitable height, and a calm well-lit room that is free of distractions. Putting our phone on “Do not disturb” also does wonders.
You might have heard it thousands of times, but exams aren’t everything. Regardless of people’s GPAs, it doesn’t automatically determine their success in life, nor does it define who they are. Employers tend to also value much more important aspects of who we are, such as how we communicate with those around us, and of course, how we handle stress!
5. It’s not just about studying
One thing that has helped me throughout the years is always having healthy snacks available at home and always keeping a full water bottle on my desk. Another important tip is implementing time management in order to have the time to both study efficiently as well as eat sufficient and nutritional meals every day. It is also useful to schedule any type of movement during the day, even if it comes down to a couple of minutes of stretching.