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Stress and success: how to study for an exam

As every college student knows all too well, midterms can be very intimidating. The exams are worth more points and require more than the usual amount of studying. This was my first round of college midterms, and honestly they turned out much better than I expected because I used helpful techniques I learned from SI sessions and my peers. A few tips for studying I have learned are:

  • Flashcards. Flashcards are your best friends when it comes to memorizing information. Memorization is very important in learning court cases, ions, and algebraic equations, among other topics. The physical act of writing the information down will help you learn better, and repeatedly going over them will allow your brain to create pathways that make it easier for remembering the material.

  • Make an outline for subjects in which you have to read the book. It is easy to read for subjects you are interested in, but sometimes it is difficult to stay focused while reading for subjects that you are not as passionate about. When reading for difficult subjects, make an outline of the reading: jot down the main ideas in bullet points and make a list of vocabulary words you will need to know. Doing this technique helps you read for a purpose and not to read only to get it done.

  • Study every day during the week leading up to the exam. Spacing out your study time helps you retain more information while cramming all of the material at once on the night before an exam will not make learning it any easier. Dedicate an hour and a half to two hours to studying each subject, and spread the material out over several nights. Studying this way will enable you to recall more information when you actually take the exam.

  • Talking out loud helps. If you teach someone else the information, it benefits both of you. Even if the topic is something you aren’t very confident about, explaining the logic or processes behind it helps you retain it. While teaching someone how to do something, you are at the same time improving your own understanding of it because you have to explain how it works.

  • Using a whiteboard. This was probably the most important thing I did to prepare for midterms. I went into the study room in my dorm and wrote down practice problems, things I needed to elaborate on, and vocabulary terms I would have to identify. Doing this is helpful because it helps you display and organize the information you need to cover. You can also draw and label graphs and pictures from your notes to help you make connections between topics.

  • Get plenty of sleep and maintain a balanced diet. A good night’s rest gives you more energy to face the day, making you more alert and better able to process information in the morning. Eating healthy foods that are rich in omegas and iron helps you recall things faster. Some foods to consider incorporating into your pre-exam diet: oatmeal, vegetables rich in iron and fiber (such as carrots and broccoli), fruits with high levels of vitamin C (such as oranges and kiwi), and protein-rich meats and seafood. And last but not least, always drink plenty of water.

This is the best advice I can offer for making your studying more effective. I hope you find these tips useful when preparing for your future exams.

Good luck!