By Meghen Jones
Sleepless nights, late night snacks, and highly-caffeinated drinks are soon-to-be your best friends for the next few weeks as you head into those dreaded final exams. But, college just wouldn’t be college if finals weren’t “a thing.” Not only do they prepare you for the challenges of the real world, but they also test the knowledge you’ve acquired throughout the semester—and if anything, take solace in the fact that this newfound education will help you as you delve into your first career.
Even though you’ve managed to conquer unanticipated pop quizzes, time-consuming assignments, and stressful tests throughout the semester, somehow the thought of finals week seems to deflate you before it begins. Trust us when we say that we feel your pain. As your nerves continue to worsen, sometimes all you need to do is invest in a little study preparation. If your regular study habits just don’t seem to be cutting it, uCribs has composed a list of 8 study hacks that will help you pass your final exams with flying colors!
The first thing that probably comes to your mind when you think of having a long study session is all the immobility that comes along with it. Whether your venue is the university library, local coffee shop, or BFF’s studio apartment, it’s harmful to sit for an extended period of time. Even though you might lose track of time while studying, it’s important to set reminders for yourself to stand up every 30-minutes. Otherwise, you could suffer from muscle degeneration, a bad back and strained neck, or even organ damage.
Not to mention, walking is one of the most proven ways to boost your memory and brain power. While counteracting the effects of sitting doesn’t take high-intensity exercise, there are several suggestions experts recommend, including stretching your hip flexors, alternating between standing and sitting, or trying yoga poses.
Read the Material Out Loud
We can all recall that moment of sheer horror when you fully realize all the material that you must study as your final exam looms. But, you bite the bullet, anyway—because that’s what college students do. As the endless pages of text begin to slowly warp your mind, it’s not too long before your attention span begins to dwindle.
Switch up your typical routine of mindlessly flipping through the pages of your seemingly never-ending textbook and read the text out loud. It’s like a bedtime story except there’s more at stake than your required bedtime. Although reading aloud to yourself may not seem like the most effective way of studying, it’s equivalent to writing the material out, and we bet that you’ll be shocked by how much you remember. Just keep your end goal in mind during this process: acing the class and moving on to the next one. Your dream job awaits, after all.
Teach Yourself and Others
Maybe you’re not an education major, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t use this tried-and-true tactic: teaching the material back to yourself. Sure, it may sound like you’re jumping the gun; however, it’s a worthwhile way to test your own knowledge and evaluate your grasp of the material. Simply construct an outline of what you need to know, and as you move down the list, talk out the important facets of the material with yourself.
It could also be helpful to gather a few peers, or even a friend or family member, and have them sit in on this process as you attempt to teach them the material you know so well. If they aren’t familiar with it to begin with, this might actually be a blessing in disguise. With a pupil who is unfamiliar with the material, you might better test of your knowledge, anyway—just imagine if you taught it well enough to help them learn something!
Create Mental Associations
When it comes to taking an exam, you can read through all of your notes repeatedly, but there are times when it where it just doesn’t seem to fully sink in—ah, the overwhelmed brain of a college student, isn’t it a marvel to behold? All jokes aside, if you’re usual tactics are no longer effective, it’s probably time to try something a little different. One suggestion we feel confident in making? We encourage you to create mental associations with key concepts in order to prepare you for your exam.
Mental associations make connections that allow us to better remember certain tidbits of important information. For example, mnemonic devices are a popular study tactic among students. Mnemonic devices are flexible and can be a song, rhyme, acronym, image, or phrase. Mental associations are not only a great way to prepare for your final exams, but they are beneficial in your everyday life and are known to improve memory.
Test Your Knowledge with Flashcards
Do you remember all of those times that you created flashcards to study through your grade school years? Well, that’s because flashcards are one of the best study tools! They allow you to test your knowledge of key concepts, definitions, quotes, and formulas—basically, all of the things that you must know to prove that you’ve absorbed course material throughout the semester.
We suggest that you stick to using white flashcards instead of opting for those bright, neon flashcards that can be distracting to the eye. Also, if you want to take it a step further, use blue ink instead of black ink when writing out your information. Believe it or not, blue ink has been proven to increase memorization—and the more you remember, the better chance you have of acing that final exam!
Take Regular Study Breaks
At some point or another, mental exhaustion takes over as a heavy load of school work continues to pile your plate. Of course, finals are in the mix, but so are all the projects, presentations, and papers that come before your exams. All of this requires a ton of brain fuel so that you can power through hours of preparation. While we are firm believers in studying as much as you can tolerate, we also advise regular study breaks.
Like recharging your iPhone battery, our energy also needs to be restored from time to time. The type of recreation is up to you: cozy up with a magazine, binge an hour of your favorite TV show, or simply catch up on some sleep. Sometimes all we need are small breaks in order to reset, come back, and absorb more information. It’s been proven that your brain will lose focus after 45-50 minutes, making your studying ineffective and pointless.
Listen to the Right Type of Music
Music is the remedy for many things—waking up on a morning when you’re low on energy, surviving a long road trip, or weathering a harsh break-up. And the music flowing through your earbuds or Bluetooth speaker often is dictated by your current mood. Pissed off? Maybe some metal to remedy your angst. Sad? Perhaps some Ed Sheridan or Sia is the cure. But, what about when you’re trying to maintain a steady focus?
Well, scientific studies have proven that classical music makes you more receptive to obtaining new information. While it would be utterly satisfying to groove to a booming Beyoncé song, a study playlist more often than not calls for the sounds of Mozart and Beethoven. The calming nature of classical music will also increase brain power, creativity, and efficiency. If classical seems like a complete bore, try out some ambient, trip hop, or synth pop. Anything downtempo is sure to be your new best friend…well, other than those other BFFs we mentioned at the beginning of this blog.
Watch a Documentary on the Topic
Are you a visual learner? Well, luckily enough for you, there are endless documentaries on topics related to almost any subject you can think of—western civilization, marine biology, and the ever-popular Shakespeare. (Like seriously, why are English professors so in love with that guy?) Why not advance your knowledge the fun way? Just grab your favorite snack and kick back with a relevant, educational documentary.
Not only do documentaries cover important information that you will probably have to know for your final exam, but they are also an entertaining way to spend your study session. Think of it this way: documentaries aim to tell a story, and stories are known to resonate more significantly with the human mind. It’s sort of like those mental associations we discussed earlier; instead of cramming your brain with information, you can tie all of your knowledge of a subject to a story to help you better remember. And let’s be honest, it’s just a lot more fun to watch a documentary as opposed to spending hours reading from your professor’s PowerPoint slides.
Despite the study hacks you choose to embrace, there are a number of ways to get through the final weeks of the fall semester. Like it or not, sometimes your finals can make or break your grade, and it’s certainly not worth risking months-worth of hard work on the gamble that you will do well. With these 8 study hacks, we are positive that you will end the semester on a good note and will be able to enjoy your winter break as intended!