by Maya Beninteso, Peak Associate
- Stop procrastinating
If I have just called you out, my sincerest apologies. I just thought: why procrastinate delivering the best study tip? Although it is easier said than done, how can you cram half a semester’s worth of information in the days leading up to an exam? Short answer — you can’t. Your professors and TAs spent approximately three hours per week teaching you content for six weeks. By that logic, how can you possibly expect yourself to review and memorize that much information in a few days? Instead, try reviewing class content weekly and cumulatively. For example, review week one content at the end of the week, then, the next week, review weeks one and two. Continue this pattern until your exam and you’ll be more than prepared. Even if you think you put the pro in procrastination, this strategy may help to ease some exam-related stress.
- Assume the role of the professor
When I study, I like to imagine what I would test students on if I were the professor. This prompts me to reflect on the major points delivered in lectures and assigned in course readings. If there is a concept that appears in lecture and in the readings, chances are you will be tested on it.
Pro tip: if your textbook or syllabus has learning objectives, consult them. These are the “big ideas” your professor wants you to know after having read the chapter. If you cannot answer the questions or prompts detailed in the learning objectives, that’s a sign those concepts need to be reviewed.
- Constantly test your knowledge
Self-testing is one of the most effective study techniques — and it’s a method I use all the time. You can tailor this tip to your style of studying, whether that be via mind maps, cue cards, homemade practice exams, or some other self-testing method. I prefer making physical cue cards as they are portable. I test myself whenever I can — during my bus ride to campus, in between episodes of Criminal Minds, and in between sets at the gym (yes, I am that person). This is your cue to start self-testing.
Having a hard time making cue cards for anything other than definitions or formulas? Refer back to tip #2 and assume the role of the professor. What potential questions do you anticipate will be asked?
- Utilize study groups — with caution
One major benefit of using a study group is it allows for every individual to share unique information. Three brains are better than one . . . right? While this may be true, there are also challenges associated with groups. Namely, if people fail to share unique information or are too concerned with making friends as opposed to the group’s shared goals. Ensure all members of your potential study group have the same goals as you and are willing to put in their share of effort.
Pro tip: schedule weekly or bi-weekly study sessions and test each other’s knowledge at the end of every session.
- Teach anyone who is willing to listen
I mean it — teach absolutely anyone what you have learned in your courses. This option is not limited to your family. Annoy your friends, your stuffed animals, or the entire 145 bus to SFU with your knowledge. After all, teaching others has been shown to be extremely effective in retaining information. Teaching others also acts as a feedback system. If you are in the middle of explaining a concept and completely blank, you should review that topic. Conversely, if you find yourself teaching a concept with ease, chances are that you have mastered it.
- Do not neglect your well-being
Exam season is rough, but neglecting your physiological and psychological needs will only make it worse. Make sure to fuel your body by drinking water and eating some food. Your brain needs fuel to study, after all.
Schedule breaks and time with your friends — even if it’s a quick phone call or Zoom meeting. Make sure to get a proper amount of sleep (which is approximately 7–10 hours a night for post-secondary students).
Thinking of pulling all-nighters leading up to your exam? That wouldn’t be wise considering pulling an all-nighter results in effects similar to a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.10. Driving with a BAC of 0.05 is illegal in BC, and you wouldn’t take an exam while under the influence, so why take an exam with comparable impaired cognitive function?
- Be creative
Studying doesn’t have to be a dull experience — get creative. Find a way to study that renders it less of a chore and more of a creative outlet. Make a TikTok. Draw a comic. Write a short story. Write a song. There may or may not be an audio recording of my friend and I singing about DNA to the tune of “Story of My Life” by One Direction floating around in the universe. But I will say I still remember all of the words. If you connect with the material in a way that is meaningful to you, chances are you will remember it.