College exams are a constant cause of stress, so the thought of preparing for them early in the semester can definitely induce panic. Fortunately, with a bit of prep, this doesn’t have to be the case! By keeping your exam schedule in mind and knowing about them early, you can ensure that you study throughout the term rather than cram the week before.
Follow this guide of 10 tips to start preparing for your tests a little at a time and feel your stress slip away. The sooner you start, the more relaxed and confident you’ll be.
1. Don’t cram the night before. This is the worst thing you can do! You’ll end up struggling to stay awake rather than learning anything and will be miserable (if not asleep) during the test. Start preparing at least a week ahead of time to avoid a stressful, sleepless night. You’ll feel less pressure to hastily memorize information and, instead, actually learn the key concepts. Plus, it’s much easier to remember a little at a time.
2. Find visual examples. Your notes are likely made up of a lot of text and written examples. No matter your penmanship, these lecture notes can be super difficult look back on weeks and weeks later. Consider drawing diagrams or using other visual cues to help break your notes up. Find visual examples in your textbook or online and redraw them in your notes to help you remember them. You’ll be much more likely to recall a picture or chart than a jumble of words during an exam.
3. Keep organized. Besides ensuring all your notes are in the right binder, the easiest way to stay focused on your work is to eliminate distractions. Keep your desk or work area clear of anything that does not benefit your current task. This may require some de-cluttering, but having a simple, organized place to study is important. If you have Cortana for your Windows phone, get her to turn on Quiet Hours to block texts and calls.
4. Look back at old tests. Professors will often combine past tests to create exams. Especially if it’s a midterm or final, you may be able to find some of the same questions on previous assignments—just ask your prof! Use these old exams or problems as study guides. Make sure you find the correct answers to any you got wrong though.
5. Create a study to-do list. If you feel overwhelmed by all of the material you need to cover for one or multiple exams, create a list starting with the areas you feel the least confident in. A list of smaller tasks will seem more manageable and will help you feel confident as you begin to cross tasks off. The more stress you can avoid, the more productive and focused you’ll be.
6. Take breaks. Our brains become a little unfocused if we stare at a screen or a page of words for too long. Go outside, take a walk, call a friend, watch an episode of your favorite show or do anything to relax your brain for a bit. Then, you can get back on task while feeling more energized and relaxed.
7. Find a study buddy. Find someone in your class who also wants someone to study with. Meeting up with people studying the same material will commit you to studying and you can compare notes and quiz each other. Different perspectives on concepts can help you understand the material better too.
8. Take care of yourself. Don’t forget to eat and drink lots of water, exercising is great too! Choose brain foods such as nuts, fruits or veggies to keep the wheels turning and give you much-needed energy. Don’t completely run yourself down because the healthier your body, the better your brain can operate.
9. Create a study guide. About a week or two before the exam, put together your own study guide to use alongside materials such as flashcards or key concepts pages. Having trouble getting it all organized? Use Microsoft Word to neatly type everything up. OneNote can also be a useful tool for working through problems or note-taking. Not only will these materials be a great reference, but the process of making them is valuable to your studying as well. Hold onto these materials until after you finish the course as they will probably come in handy again.
10. Sleep! It may be tempting to wait until the few nights before to cram for you exam, but this isn’t a great idea. Your brain needs at least 6 hours of sleep in order to function really well. Prepare ahead of time so that you can get a full night’s sleep before your test to ensure your mind is refreshed.
Studying can feel like a full-time job, but by incorporating good study habits into your usual routine, you’ll already be prepared for your tests when it’s crunch time. Remember to relax, stay organized and take breaks when you sit down to study. By making these 10 tips a habit, you’ll never have to cram again.
Feature Image: Alberto G.