As the fall semester winds down to a close, college students everywhere are beginning their final cramming as a last-ditch effort to pass a class. While naysayers will argue that you should have been learning this all along, I’m here to tell you that you can pass that class last-minute with these simple tips. If this article is the first reminder that you have finals coming up in the next couple weeks, then crack open your textbook, grab a coffee, and follow these helpful suggestions.
When there are not too many days left before the big test, you might think you can maximize your study time by pulling an all-nighter. However, sleep-deprivation leaves you groggy and unfocused, doing more harm than good. You can’t pass that test if you’re drooling on it. On top of that, the National Sleep Foundation has found that sleep is a time for the brain to reorganize all the information it gathered the day before. Without that reorganization time, connections are missed and it takes the brain longer to recall facts. So manage your time. If you have an 8 a.m. final on Monday, don’t stay up too far past 9 p.m. on Sunday, or you’ll miss out on valuable processing time. If you have difficulty falling asleep early, try removing electronics from your sleeping space, cutting out caffeine for two to three hours before bed, and exercising for at least a half hour per day.
Although some professors advocate studying in complete silence, it turns out listening to some music can actually improve your ability to retain information. When you are nose deep in a textbook, you are subconsciously (let’s face it, consciously) looking for any reason to stop studying. In a quiet library, any sneeze, buzzing cell phone, or crinkling book cover gives you that reason. However, that doesn’t mean you should be cranking up “All About That Bass” just yet. Lyrically driven music can be just as much a distraction as no music at all. The best things to listen to are film and video game scores because they are composed to keep the consumer engaged without distracting from the plot.
People tend to remember things best when the information they need is linked to other easily accessible information. Because memory is built around association, you can trick your brain into recalling things. Try to chew a specific flavor of gum only while studying. When you take your exam, pop in the same type of gum. Because your brain made that connection between cinnamon and chemistry, the distinctive taste will help you visualize those formulas. The act of chewing gum also relieves stress and increases blood flow, improving brain activity
Finally, don’t be afraid to take a break! After about an hour, the brain becomes numb to new information. Studying is most effective when done in 40–50 minute chunks, followed by a 15–20 minute break. By giving yourself time to relax and accomplish tasks unrelated to studying, you’ll be able to refocus with renewed energy.