The Best Study Practices for Acing Exams

studying for final exams

Last month, we looked at how students can make the most of their wellness days, with the university’s leading wellness experts sharing important and helpful tips on giving your brain a break and balancing your holistic health.       

Now that exams are upon us, it’s important for students to prepare well and find their study groove to finish the semester strong. 

Barbie Windom, director for the university’s Academic Success Center, and Julia Lawson, director of Academic Advising for the Poole College of Management, recently shared their expertise on how students can most effectively finish out the semester. 

“It’s like a football game,” Windom says. “It’s the fourth quarter, the end of the game, and that’s not the time to give up. You don’t want your team to give up, so you push to the final [buzzer].”

This final quarter, these experts say, is the time for students to “put your best foot forward,” because when the semester ends, you can look back at all you’ve accomplished through the ups and downs of the year. 

If you’re a student preparing for exams, check out the following tips our experts encourage you to try out. 

Minimize Distraction and Maximize Focus.

One of the best preparation methods for this final push is maximizing focus. There are two approaches to doing this:

  1. Use the study method that’s worked best for you this semester
  2. Determine what things promote success for you 

Evaluate the things that distract or hinder your focus, such as group study sessions, your phone or where you’re studying. While some people might focus best with background music, you may need the silence to help you think and retain information. 

Assessing these things will allow you to determine what environment is most successful and productive for you.

Choose a study environment that promotes concentration.

Analyze your environment and decide what things are helpful for comprehension and focus. For example, do you need to be alone when you study? Do you need music in the background? Would it be helpful to get a study room on campus? 

Thinking about questions like these allow you to build the best environment for you to make headway on studying. Consider trying some of the productivity ideas below:

  • Put your phone away or in a different place
  • Try the Freedom and Serene apps (block sites for optimal productivity sessions)
  • Place a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door

Create a study routine. 

While having a tailored environment helps promote productivity, also having a scheduled study routine will give you the best results. 

In conjunction with your optimal study setting, create a study routine, or schedule, that blocks out time for work and rest. This method, called the Pomodoro Technique, gives your brain the space to sprint and work hard to sort through the material, and then recuperate and process the information.  

Pulling all-nighters or studying for five straight hours wears out the brain and body significantly, especially with the stress that’s accumulated throughout the semester. Instead, give your body the rest it needs. Many students who fail to do so end up getting sick due to pushing their bodies past its breaking point. 

And no one wants to be sick during finals. Being balanced and organized will help you stay ahead of the game. 

Plan Ahead.

This is the moment where that idea of giving your best effort tends to be more important than how you started. Look ahead and ask yourself, ‘What are those final exams going to look like?’” 

Refer back to Moodle and your syllabi to refresh your memory on the format, structure and expectations of each final exam. Whether or not the professor is familiar to you, this helps ease any extra stress or tension.  

With the high stakes that come with exams and the culmination of a long and stressful year, stick with what you know and what’s been working this year.

What have been the most beneficial study habits and methods? What material is the most difficult for you to comprehend? Think about these things and plan your schedule to accommodate for your best methods. 

If you’re struggling to identify the best study practices for you, consider using the following active studying strategies:

  • Create your own practice test. Use previous exam material and practice redoing the problems.
  • Explain your answers or knowledge to someone. Ask a peer, friend or family member to listen to you formulate and build the knowledge pathways for the different exam concepts and ideas.
  • Use physical study aids, such as flashcards or concept maps. Actively writing these things out using these methods helps imprint the information in your mind.

If you need extra help on material or studying, utilize faculty’s office hours. Reach out to make sure you are on the right track with your preparation and understanding of the exam.

Break Well.

While it may be tempting to pull all-nighters or study for hours straight without breaking, you will need energy and rest to push through exams successfully. The best way to accomplish this is through regular breaks from the screen or materials, plenty of sleep and positive thinking. 

If you utilize these tips and best practices, you will be setting yourself up for the best chance of success this exam season.

For more study tips and resources, visit the Academic Success Center website here.

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