The Do’s and Don’ts of Exam Preparation

We have all studied for tests and exams but what is involved in that process? We do not often think about what works for us when studying, but make decisions on what feels right. Perhaps we listen to what mom, dad or the teacher’s suggestions, or even ask a best friend how they study. Here is a list that should help you determine the best course of action for exam preparation. Understanding what should be done or even what to avoid doing, can definitively save your grade!

Exam preparation is all about studying. This process can be complex and absolutely unique to every student. The factors that surround the study process however, is where we can determine things that work, things that don’t work, and things we think work but actually do not! Let’s start with the latter:

1) “I’m pulling an all-nighter Mom!”

A common badge of honor among students is the all-nighter; staying up all night into the early morning to study for the big test to get the A plus you deserve! This does not work. Sleeping complete nights will actually bring more benefits than staying up all night for last minute study. Without REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, your brain will not retain much from your late night study sessions and recalling past cemented information will become more challenging. Keep in mind you will need to stay awake during the exam as well! A full night’s rest will improve your exam performance more than a sleep deprived extra long study session.

2) “I work better under pressure”

Do not wait until the last minute to study your material. Yet another badge of honor, waiting until the last minute to study is incredibly appealing as you are both a rebel, for waiting until the last minute, and a genius, because who needs all that study time when a few hours before an exam is all you need? Rarely does this strategy work. Studying should be done over time, not crammed the day before an exam. Using a small amount of time each day to review your class notes will improve your ability to memorize and assimilate new learnings. In this way, the need for a cram session, or the aforementioned all-nighter, won’t be necessary, as you will feel more confident due to your preparation. Use the day preceding your exam as a time to rest and review.

3) Zen Time before Bed Time.

Your brain should be in a state of rest prior to going to sleep. A quiet enjoyable activity, such as reading a book or listening to music can help you relax and provide that downtime so you have a longer period of REM sleep. Note that television screens, phones and tablets help keep your brain turned on! Stop any study sessions at least half an hour before hitting the hay.

4) “I’ve been working so hard I haven’t moved from this chair!”

Do not stay at your desk all day. Students often feel that they must study without breaks, often in the name of efficiency, though it is actually important to get some physical activity during study. Exercise helps get oxygen flowing to the brain, so studying while jogging on a treadmill, or even reviewing concepts while shooting hoops in the yard will do wonders for retention. Reserve half an hour before your exam for a pleasant activity that might help get the oxygen flowing. Reasonable physical effort increases your brain’s functions. Get up and move for success!

5) “You’re not you when you’re hungry, grab a snack.”

If your brain is the body’s engine, then food is the fuel. By taking breaks to eat healthy meals, your brain will be more prepared to memorize and recall information. Eat well portioned healthy meals and snacks throughout the day.

Your mental health is related to your body’s health as well. If your body needs to be prepared and rested for your exams, so too does your brain. In order to learn and recall study material, focus on your body and mind’s needs. Small breaks throughout the day, even during work or class hours is important. Remember that overworking your brain is just as bad as not studying at all, and you will feel the effects with respect to your mood, drowsiness and hunger level. If you have found yourself struggling to remember the material before an exam, or if you don’t feel confident before sitting in front of your test, consider our suggestions; Mistakes are how we learn our lessons!

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